Asperger Syndrome

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Elisabeth Sánchez Navajas was born in Málaga. She studied teaching at Malaga University from 1998 to 2001. She is studying the highest level of English at the Official School of Languages in Fuengirola. She lives in Torremolinos and works as a primary teacher in a public bilingual school a few minutes walking from home.

Asperger Syndrome

I am working currently in a class of twenty-five six-year-old children. Like most children their age, they are restless and mischievous, but there is one of them that is different from the others in a special way. His name is Paul and he has Asperger Syndrome and he also has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
This is the first time I have a pupil with both disorders together, so it is a challenge for me to be the best teacher I can be for understanding and helping him.

About Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome (AS) is a neurobiological disorder that is part of a group of conditions called autism spectrum disorders. The term "autism spectrum" refers to a range of developmental disabilities that includes autism as well as other disorders with similar characteristics.
AS is characterized by poor social interaction, obsessions, odd speech patterns, and other peculiar mannerisms. Children with AS often have few facial expressions and have difficulty reading the body language of others. Overall, people with AS are capable of functioning in everyday life, but tend to be somewhat socially immature and may be seen by others as odd or eccentric. Other characteristics of AS include motor delays, clumsiness, limited interests, and peculiar habits. They also have trouble demonstrating empathy for others. Rules are very important and a child may become angry if a game is not played fairly or his peers break school rules.

Diagnosis and treatment

AS is often difficult to diagnose and treat. Many children are diagnosed after the age of 3, but most are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9. Children with AS function well in most aspects of life, so it can be easy to attribute their strange behaviour to just being “different”.
Researchers and mental health experts are still investigating the causes of autism and AS. AS is not caused by emotional deprivation, it is a neurobiological disorder in which its causes are not yet fully understood. Currently, there is no cure for the disorder. Experts say that AS follows a continuous course and usually lasts a lifetime.
According to mental health experts, an early intervention is very important while the child’s brain is still developing. They can be helped tremendously by treatment with social skills training, parental education and training, behavior modification and other psychosocial interventions. Because children with Asperger disorder can also have debilitating compulsions and anxiety related to social interactions, sometimes medication can be prescribed to help with these aspects of the condition.
In Paul’s case, he has minimal social interaction, he often seeks out people to talk about his interests, but his conversations are usually one-sided, more like a lecture in which he talks about his knowledge and is not interested in feedback. He does not understand eye contact, he sometimes appears cold and uncaring towards his classmates, but this is not deliberate. He likes routine and structure and can become stressed if something unexpected happens.
He has excellent thinking skills. He is very good at Maths; he loves numbers. On the contrary, he presents problems with reading and writing skills, even though he is improving. He has good grammar skills and an advanced vocabulary for his young age, but he is very literal and he has trouble using language in a social context. Although Paul has skills that seem well developed in some areas and lacking in others, he has above- average intelligence. He is also very interested in dinosaurs, the biggest one, the smallest one, the fastest one, and so on.
Paul expresses his feelings in unpredictable ways. Sometimes he may seem emotionless and other times he may show extreme emotion that is not appropriate for the situation.
He usually interrupts my explanations in class and it is very difficult for him to remain seated in his chair because of his hyperactivity disorder. His partners are used to the situation, they understand him, help him and feel a great affection for him.
It is very important for Asperger children to highlight their strengths and work consistently on their weaknesses. There is hope for children who have Asperger Syndrome and with training and support from their family, teachers and health professionals, they can live meaningful and productive lives.