Asperger’s syndrome is one that affects the social interaction of
students that are otherwise smart and capable. Their inability to react
appropriately to social cues and engage in small talk may leave them misunderstood
and marginalized. Like autism, Asperger’s syndrome is on a spectrum
which can make it difficult to diagnose. This is because each case is
unique and symptoms can range from mild awkwardness to an inability to
function socially. Still, there are some key indicators that can help
parents and teachers to identify possible Asperger’s cases and send
students for evaluation.
Early detection of Asperger’s is the best case scenario for students
who can then learn coping mechanisms that can see most of them functioning
normally in social situations. Of course having any of these indicators
doesn’t mean that your student has Asperger’s syndrome and
accurate diagnosis will have to be made by a professional.
Does your student play with others? An inability to play pretend games
or utilize creativity can be easily masked by mimicking the play of others.
Students who have Asperger’s may also parrot lines from books, TV
shows and movies (often verbatim) that are similar to the situations they
find themselves in. Abstract, creative imagining doesn’t come naturally
to them and this may limit their ability to play with others at a young age.
This is not to say that children with Asperger’s don’t play,
they do play with their toys and even with you. What you need to do is
try to play with them as their peers would. You can also test their reactions
by suggesting a different pretend game or asking to play with other toys.
Because students with Asperger’s don’t know intuitively how
to fit in with these games, they like to play the games that they understand
and are familiar with. Suggesting a new game, a different toy or introducing
a new character or scenario into an existing game often throws them off
guard and may cause them to get upset.
Students with Asperger’s also find small talk and conversation difficult.
While they are able to talk endlessly about topics that they have learned,
they are not adept at the art of conversation. They find it difficult
to make small talk, and will only answer questions in concrete, factual
ways. While they may be able to go on about dinosaurs for ten minutes
very comprehensively, you will find that the conversation ends abruptly
if you change the topic.
Their focus on the concrete makes them especially adept at science and
math. Students with Asperger’s may in fact be very clever and excel
at subjects which require factual memory and concrete concepts. They usually
have one field of expertise in which they excel and this makes them seem
perfectly capable. While they are often very gifted and bright, it’s
their social lives that suffer most.
Students may also display OCD tendencies like ordering and organizing in
order to make sense of the world. They may suffer meltdowns when they
lose a game, or when faced with change. Many parents cope by allowing
students to win rather than dealing with the root cause.
For most students, Asperger’s is a manageable syndrome which can
be overcome. Through role-play and therapy, they become adept at dealing
with social situations and learn how to respond correctly to small talk
and abstract inquiries. This is why early detection is so critical as
it enables the student to integrate into society before they becomes stigmatized