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Senior adviser Kari Steindal at the National Competence Unit for Autism has created one presentation on Asperger's syndrome - with a focus on closeness, contact and communication. 

Image: by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash



She lists common sources of stress that one should be aware of in encounters with children and adolescents with Asperger's syndrome and what adjustments are needed. This is basic knowledge for teachers who encounter the student with Asperger's syndrome in the classroom.

The article is based on the presentation from the Norwegian Autism Unit.

 

Asperger's syndrome in the classroom

Asperger's syndrome can be a rather invisible difficulty, where those who have to deal with the child / adolescent with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty understanding what is problematic for him / her; they become irritated and confused by the child's reactions, and they do not understand what help they can provide for the child / adolescent to get better.





The difficulties are complicated by the fact that the person with Asperger's syndrome does not see for themselves what help they need. There is a big gap between what they can and cannot do - which can be an incredible source of misunderstandings. The children / young people often have difficulty putting into words what is difficult. They experience being different; trying to be normal but do not quite know how.

A common problem is that many things that are obvious to other children and young people, are not at all obvious to students with Asperger's syndrome.

There is really no limit to what misunderstandings the child / youth can make about both social codes, rules, and intentions of others. All that is "unspoken" is quickly misunderstood when social and non-verbal codes are not captured and understood by the child.





The child gets a "wrong" or "different" focus, struggles to distinguish significantly from non-essential information, and has many rigid / square perceptions of different topics. Statements are often taken quite literally, which makes irony or metaphorical language very complicated. Small talk can be unbearable for the child / adolescent, while oversensitivity to sensory impressions can make everyday life a sensory nightmare.

 

List of stress sources in the classroom

Here is the list of possible sources of stress in the classroom for the student with Asperger's Syndrome:

 

 

1) Loss of control

 

  1. Several simultaneous tasks
  2. Having to prioritize / choose
  3. Having to plan
  4. Lack of structure
  5. New surroundings
  6. Violation of routines
  7. Unpredictable waiting
  8. To be prevented from completing
  9. Make mistakes / fail
  10. New tasks
  11. Too difficult tasks
  12. Too simple tasks
  13. Time pressure / fuss

 

2) Social difficulties / misunderstandings

 

  1. Many people
  2. Lots of proximity
  3. New people
  4. Small talk / unstructured talk
  5. Get corrected / get criticism
  6. Joke - sarcasm - irony
  7. Indirect, imprecise speech
  8. Ambiguities - metaphors - analogies
  9. Conflict - violation - bullying
  10. Praise / appreciation (in some cases)

 

3) Hypersensitivity

 

  1. Sound 
  2. Smell
  3. Touch
  4. Light
  5. Temperature
  6. Too much sensoric stimuli simultanously

 

Asperger's syndrome and the sources of stress

Given all these mentioned difficulties, it is not surprising that a major difficulty in everyday life for everyone with Asperger's syndrome is to regulate the stress that arises in the social interaction with the others. For teachers and kindergarten staff, it is a very useful approach to know the following sources of stress (see list above).

 

Facilitation for Asperger's syndrome in the classroom

Among the advice of Kari Steindal are:

 

  1. To facilitate for PREDICTABILITY

    • Overview and plans - overall structure
    • Know what to do 
    • Know what is expected - specific goals
    • Know in advance what is important
    • Concrete procedures - detailed structure
    • "Recipes"
    • "Survival guide" for social situations
  2. To facilitate for CLARITY

    • Avoid cognitive overload
    • Do not communicate about several things at once
    • Highlight the essentials 
    • To the point
    • Avoid open or vague statements - no "hint"
    • Avoid too many choices
    • Do not bother - Also give written / visual support
  3. To facilitate for RESPECT

    Be an interpreter and guide instead of an educator

    "Interpreters": 

    • Highlights the most important events
    • Sorts importance, goals, order 
    • Resolves misunderstandings
    • Letters in advance
    • Is unique and friendly
    • Writes the most important thing

 

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