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Behavioral Characteristics of Children with Asperger Syndrome Video

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  • 0:03 Learning About Differences
  • 0:42 Autism: A Behavioral Profile
  • 1:54 Asperger: How Is It Different?
  • 3:25 Example Scenario
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Millraney

Lisa has 27 years of experience treating speech, language, memory and swallowing disorders. She has a master's degree in speech pathology from Vanderbilt University.

If you have never met a person with Asperger syndrome, you might wonder how they differ from you. In this lesson, we'll explore the behaviors common to people with Asperger and other autism spectrum disorders.

Learning About Differences

Amy had taught school for several years and loved her fifth-grade students. Just before the start of the current school year, she was told by her principal that one of her new arrivals, Austin, had Asperger syndrome.

Though Amy had studied students with special needs during her education as a teacher, she had to admit that not having used that knowledge in the ensuing years, she was a bit fuzzy on specifics. So she went back to school, after a fashion! She got online and reviewed all the information she could find on the subject. She knew that fresh knowledge would come in handy in introducing the other children in the classroom to Austin, too.

Autism: A Behavioral Profile

In her reading, Amy was reminded that Asperger syndrome is part of a group of conditions collectively known as autism spectrum disorders, or ASD. This term comes from the fact that a person diagnosed with autism may be severely impaired, mildly involved, or fall at any of a wide range of levels in between.

All children with autism are not alike, but they do have some behavioral hallmarks in common. Frequently, children with autism prefer to be alone. They may seem aloof and disconnected from emotions and don't often make eye contact.

According to many experts, what is actually happening there is that the child with ASD often does not understand emotions or have a capacity for empathy. They can't pick those things up in the course of daily activities, as a typical child can and does.

Children with autism also have trouble relating to other people as people. Often, they use an adult as a tool to get something they need, rather than interacting. This behavioral trait accompanies a difficulty in communicating that is common to most children with autism. Like the emotional capability, language skills that typical children pick up naturally have to be explicitly taught to the child with autism.

Asperger: How Is It Different?

Learning these facts gave Amy cause to pause with concern. She hoped Austin had learned some language and interaction skills, or becoming part of a class might be very hard for him. She knew 'her kids' were usually chatty and sometimes boisterous!

As she got into readings specifically about Asperger syndrome, Amy was relieved to learn that language delay was not typical of a child with Asperger. In fact, they often demonstrate vocabulary skills beyond their age level. However, their emotional competence is impaired like that of other children with ASD.

The child with Asperger tries to make social contact with others but is often awkward and unsure. They tend to get fixated on a favorite topic, have trouble picking up cues from others to change the subject, and may speak out of turn or interrupt. In addition, they take language literally. They don't grasp sarcasm, figures of speech, or abstract terms well.

In the area of physical behavior, children with Asperger syndrome often appear clumsy. They sometimes display some of the stereotypical behaviors commonly associated with autism, like flapping their hands or spinning around in place. The concept of personal space is one they often don't understand, so they may stand entirely too close to others when talking.

Putting all these factors together, Amy could see how rather than seeming aloof, children with Asperger might seem inconsiderate, or just plain odd. Despite the clear challenge of integrating Austin into her class, though, she found herself looking forward to meeting him.

Example Scenario

On the first day of school, a little boy marched into Amy's classroom, paying close attention to his feet as if trying not to trip over them. He trooped right up to her and almost stepped on her toes. He stared into her face and put out his hand. ''Good morning, Ms. Jones!'' he said. ''My name is Austin. I understand you are to be my teacher this year!''

Amy had to laugh. ''Why yes, I am. And I understand you are a pretty special guy.''

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