As a skilled teacher, you know how to help the child with Asperger’s Syndrome transition from one activity to the next in your classroom. As a matter of fact, you most likely work closely with the parents of your students anyways, and since you are sensitive to their input and the needs of your children, you are not having any troubles. The problems which you might encounter, however, deal with the interpersonal relationships the children in your classroom are forging between themselves. There is little input from grownups and these relationships are crucial for the proper development of the youngsters’ social skills. Unfortunately, for a child with Asperger’s Syndrome there is a very real danger of falling victim to the class or school bully.
This kind of bully delights on picking on children who might be a bit move naïve and eccentric than others. These differences provide great fodder for the bully who sees this as an opportunity to pick on the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Perhaps she will point out the inability to understand jokes or the failure to read social clues. The bully might mercilessly tease the child for being different, and before long, others might join in with name calling and ostracizing the child. Bully proofing the child with Asperger’s Syndrome in your classroom is not always easy, but it is an absolute requirement to ensure the youngster’s safety and also willingness to engage in the academic process.
To accomplish bully proofing, it is important to make the child with Asperger’s Syndrome a valued part of the group. Whenever possible, make her or him part of a group of kids where the special abilities the child has will come to the forefront. Since children with Asperger’s Syndrome do especially well with learning by rote activities, you might want to use these teaching opportunities to make the child part of a team where this ability will lead the team to victory. Not only will this made for instant peer acceptance, but it might also make the child into a much sought after team member.
Moreover, discuss with the parents or caregivers the kind of social interaction role playing that is being done in the home. If there is little or no such role playing, model the proper behavior and also engage the child in role playing in between classes. Helping the youngster know how to respond to certain challenges on the playground as well as in the cafeteria or classroom will make her or him unattractive to the bully who is out for easy prey. If the child is older, consider a buddy type system where a more socially mature child I paired with the Asperger’s Syndrome child to help ease transitions and to basically act as a buddy that helps the child understand the implications of social interactions and leads by example.
No matter which steps you take in the short term, it is crucial to remember that a big portion of running a classroom that includes a child with Asperger’s Syndrome must focus on not allowing the child to withdraw from contact. It is in your classroom that the child will learn to interact or withdraw, and when given the choice, may become reclusive.