Classroom Management Strategies
1. Structure any special interest or ‘obsession’ into the classroom curriculum
Allow the student to enjoy their special interest or obsession by incorporating it into the curriculum whenever possible. Set limits, but use their area of interest to 'hook' the student at the start of lesson, and as a reward for remaining 'on task.'
3. Simple, clear, verbal instructions
Complex instructions and use of body language/signals may lead to confusion, ignorance and non-compliance. Teachers need to adopt simple directive language, check for understanding, repeat instructions and await compliance
2. Establish a withdrawal (chill-out) area in the classroom and/or school
A safe, semi-private withdrawal area can be an effective management strategy for times when aggressive, manipulative or attention-seeking behaviours occur. The teacher can ask the student to move to this area to minimise class disruption and allow the student to reflect and calm down. It can also be a ‘safe haven’ where the student can voluntarily withdraw.
4. Establish routines and timetables (visual) and provide warnings for class transitions or changes
Change is a normal everyday occurrence. The Asperger child needs to learn coping strategies for dealing with change. Verbal and visual reminders can help, along with advance warning of any changes in curriculum or activity. This will help the student prepare and therefore decrease anxiety associated with sudden changes.
5. Remain calm, matter-of-fact and non-emotive.
When a student is experiencing an explosive episode the teacher needs to minimise danger to other students and classroom objects – with safety the top priority. The teacher needs to remain calm and unemotional, and direct the student to the withdrawal area to calm down. Once calm, the teacher can then address the situation and the behaviour that resulted. The teacher can provide alternative ‘socially appropriate’ strategies for future situations.
6. Incorporate Social Story Books.
Learning appropriate social skills and behavioural responses is essential for all children, but especially so for the inclusion of ASD children in the ‘normal’ classroom.
To assist the student to learn these skills the use of ‘social story books’ can be effective. A picture book where the student is the main character can work well. As the student learns appropriate behaviours, via discussion, role-play and modelling, a social story book can be constructed. The books can be kept by the student to remind them what to do or how to respond in certain situations. For example, “Coping with Teasing”, “When I need help with school work”, “How to wait my turn”.
Social stories are convenient, unobtrusive, and may draw on a strength many children with Asperger demonstrate (i.e., adherence to rules/routines). (Wilczynski et al, 2001) (Ashley 2007)
7. Modify curriculum and group processes.
Anxiety may stem from any number of factors within the classroom setting, and may result in the student withdrawing inwardly, becoming unresponsive or refusing to participate. Factors include lack of success with a particular subject, anxiety over asking for help, group work, the seating arrangement or any other group process. The teacher needs to be prepared to modify these arrangements if necessary. Involving the student in the planning of seating arrangements and structure of group work can help.
8. Have high expectations
Don’t make excuses for a child with Asperger. It is just as important for an Asperger child to learn rules, consequences for breaking the rules and what it feels like to achieve success and experience recognition, as it is for any other child. (Grandin & Duffy 2003)
9. Follow through with consequences and work commitments.
Some children may attempt to withdraw, run, hide, delay, or manipulate (by arguing and negotiating) as a way of avoiding responses to behaviour incidents or expectations about school work. In this case the teacher must remain calm and non-emotive and ensure that the work or inappropriate behaviour is addressed after the initial outburst.
Follow through is important. Emphasise the inevitability of the student having to face their problems and/or school work, and then help the student find more appropriate problem-solving techniques. e.g. social story boards
10. Remain positive and draw from the expertise available.
Many experts are available through Education Queensland, the schools and school communities themselves, disability support groups, parents and care-givers
Miles 2003; Grandin& Duffy 2003; Ashley 2007; Wilczynski 2001)