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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

Poor Concentration and Disorganization

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can often appear off-task, and may be easily distracted by both internal (perseverative thoughts/concerns) and external (sensory) stimuli. For example, internal stimuli distraction: a child sees a single cloud in the sky and begins to obsess about whether it is going to rain and/or possibly storm. External stimuli distraction: attending to a fly buzzing around the room rather than the teacher; attending to fluorescent light flickering). Screening out information that is irrelevant can be very difficult, requiring conscious effort by the child with Asperger’s Syndrome (13).

In addition, children with Asperger’s Syndrome can exhibit significant difficulties regarding both their internal and external organizational skills, including the following:

Organizing their thoughts and ideas to express themselves in a cohesive manner. For example, a child with Asperger’s Syndrome was asked to explain how he figured out the answer to the math problem, 900 x 3=2,700. He responded: “Well, first of all, 9 x 3=27 and 90 x 3=270 and 900 x 3=2,700 and it sort of reminds me of another kind of math problem like the other day when you’re multiplying and uh it goes 9 x 3=27 and then uhm, its like... I don’t really know what I’m saying.”).

Gathering educational materials needed for specific tasks/activities/homework.

Keeping track of their belongings - including personal and educational materials such as assignments.

Desk/locker organization, etc.

Concentration/Distractibility/Disorganization Intervention Strategies
A highly structured educational environment may be indicated for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome to experience success (please refer to the “Structured Teaching” article for additional information).

Use of a timer (either egg or kitchen) provides time constraints and structure for completing tasks. When given an unlimited amount of time, children with Asperger’s Syndrome may take an unlimited amount of time for task completion. However caution should be taken in using timers. Some children may become highly interested (distracted) in the amount of time which is passing, via the timer, and thus become less attentive to completing the task. Other children have exhibited extreme anxiety when timers are used because they become overly focused on the amount of time passing, and thus perceive that they cannot complete the task within the time constraint given.

A written (visual) checklist is used to keep the child focused and “on task” so that he can complete each step listed in sequential order. This visual tool will allow for independent completion of an entire routine or task (e.g., use of a “morning routine” checklist or “homework” checklist).

A daily (individualized) visual schedule should be used to communicate to the child what is currently happening, when he is “all done” with something, what is coming up next, and any changes that might occur. (Please refer to the article on Structured Teaching for more information regarding visual schedules).

Use of a visual calendar at both home and school will give the child information regarding up-coming events/activities. When the child asks when a particular event will occur, he can easily be referred to the visual calendar, which presents the information through the visual mode, which the child can more readily understand (e.g., class field trip, “bath night”, swimming lessons, etc.).

Give written directions/cues whenever possible in various contexts/environments. Small dry erase boards and index cards are good tools to use for written directions as they are easily portable. (e.g., In computer lab, a three step direction could be written down to give the child information as to what he needs to do independently, rather than giving him continual auditory prompting for completion of the task).

Use color-coded notebooks to match academic books.

Use an assignment notebook consistently.

Worksheets may need to be reorganized. Modifications could include fewer problems per sheet; larger, highly visual space for responding and boxes next to each question to be checked when completed.

For class lectures, peer buddies may be needed to take notes. No Carbon Required (NCR) paper can be used or the student's notes could be copied on a copy machine.

Use of an “Assignments to be Completed” folder as well as a “Completed Assignments” folder, is also recommended.

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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