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"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001

Intervention Strategies by Susan Stokes

Insistence on Sameness

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can be easily overwhelmed by minimal changes in routines and can exhibit a definite preference for rituals (13). As a result, these children can become quite anxious and worry incessantly about the unknown; that is, when the environment becomes unpredictable and they do not know what to expect.
Example: Unpredictability may occur during less structured activities or times of the day: recess, lunch, free play/time, physical education, bus rides to/from school, music class, art class, assemblies, field trips, substitute teachers, delayed start/early dismissal, etc.

The following features are important to consider for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome:

Rigid, egocentric perceptions: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to have very rigid egocentric perceptions of the world, and thus can become quite upset when changes occur that “go against” their preconceived “rules” or perceptions (14). Therefore, when a new situation occurs, they have to learn a “new rule” (perception) which can be very upsetting to them (e.g., indoor recess due to inclement weather) (14).

Strict adherence to rules: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome may generate rules based upon their perceptions of various experiences. As a result, they may strictly adhere to these self-imposed rules, and expect others to adhere as well. When these rules are “broken” by others, this can create a great deal of stress/anxiety in children with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Example: Whenever a particular child with Asperger’s Syndrome tells someone “Thank you”, he expects the person to respond immediately with, “You’re welcome”. If the person does not immediately respond, the child will perseverate in saying “Thank you” and become increasingly anxious until the person says “You’re welcome”).

Conversely, when given rules by others (teachers, parents, etc.), children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to strictly and concretely interpret the rules, as well as exhibit strict adherence to the rule - for both themselves and others.
Example: A child with Asperger’s Syndrome was given the following rules in art class by the teacher regarding markers: “No throwing markers; No chewing on the markers; No smashing marker tips”. The child with Asperger’s Syndrome imitated a peer, and connected the markers together to make a long “sword” type structure. This child and the peer engaged in a “sword fight”. Both children got “in trouble” for this behavior, although the child with Asperger’s Syndrome was truly confused as to why he was in trouble, because he hadn’t broken any “rules”, according to his perceptions.

Need for closure/completion: In relation to their ritualistic needs, children with Asperger’s Syndrome can exhibit an intense need for closure or completion of tasks/activities before transitioning to the next activity. This can create significant educational implications if not planned for accordingly (e.g., If a math worksheet is not able to be completed prior to going out for recess, the child with Asperger’s Syndrome may become quite upset - even though he may enjoy going outside for recess) very much. The anxiety relates to the need for closure, a ritualistic need, rather than in relation to the specific activities at hand, and typically cannot be alleviated by being told that the activity can completed later.

Insistence on Sameness Intervention Strategies
It is important to provide a consistent, predictable environment with minimal transitions.

Use of a visual schedule can assist in providing the child with information relating to his day, as well as preparing him for any changes which might occur in his daily routine.

Visual and auditory forewarning/foreshadowing are also critical, in order to give the child much needed information relating to possible changes in routines.

Assignments may need to be modified so that the child can complete them within a specific amount of time, prior to transitioning to the next activity.

Use of a “finish later” folder or box may be helpful. Even though the child may be verbally reminded that he can finish his math worksheet after recess, this information will not be processed as readily as through the use of a visual strategy, such as a “finish later” folder/box.

Reprinted from "Children with Asperger's Syndrome: Characteristics/Learning Styles and Intervention Strategies" by Susan Stokes, Autism Consultant for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7, Wisconsin State Department of Special Education.

    Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12

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