Monday, October 6, 2014

What's Your Teacher Superpower? Mine May Be a Surprise to You...

I know as an educator you've seen this meme around on shirts and posters.  You may even have one hanging in your classroom...

Believe me, I hear ya and I'm shouting that phrase from the mountain tops as a teacher myself!  But today, I want to show you the poster I have hanging in my office at home, which to me is more important than the one above:

 I decided to have my Garyn at a later age in life...I wanted to be financially set and have my career running strong.  So I had all those things and along he came.  He came to me 2 months early, weighing only 4 lbs and could fit inside one of my hands.  He appeared to be healthy, but I knew as a Special Educator that he may have cognitive and physical delays in his development.  But that was OK with me, because he was my Angel sent from above.

When he got to Preschool, he began to have problems.  I knew he was very, very smart, but I also had that Mommy intuition that something just wasn't right with my little man.  When I heard he had hit his teacher when she was trying to get him from under the sand table, I knew my intuition was correct.  I took him to the doctor looking for answers.  I left with a referral to an Autism Specialist at a hospital two hours away.  
My heart was broken and I've never, ever felt so helpless in my life.  Not only was I a Special Educator at work, but now I'd be one at home too.  I cried, and cried, and cried.  My son Garyn had Autism and as his Mommy there was nothing I could do to fix it.

Well, I'm here with you three years later and guess what?  As Pete the Cat would say, "Everything is good!"  My son Garyn is now 7-years-old, and has Asperger's Syndrome.  He's an Aspie (someone with Asperger's) which is a form of Autism.  Autism is a developmental condition that is on a spectrum, with Aspergers being on the far right.  He has a full-scale IQ that is near genius; I knew he was very smart.  But his social IQ is that of someone with a Cognitive Impairment.  So, basically he's a genius with a mental impairment.  Crazy, I know.  Right?

As a teacher you may have a student(s) in your classroom with Autism; you may even have some unidentified Aspies in your classroom right now!  These are the kids that are super book smart, but can't make a friend and may be a social outcast in your room because their "weird".  They may appear to have ADHD, with the attention span of the Road Runner...Beep, Beep!  They finish their work and they're off runnin'.

Well, as a Mommy to the best Aspie in the world AND a teacher, I bring to you today some tips and tricks as how to handle and work with students with Asperger's Syndrome.  Hopefully, I can shed some light on the topic and make your days a little brighter!

So here we go... Let's learn about teaching your Aspie.

1)  Students with Aspergers will have sensory issues.  This means that all their senses will be affected throughout the day in some way or another.  Some Aspies have senses that are HYPERACTIVE like my son's, or they may be UNDER ACTIVE also.  In my son's case, each and everyone of his senses are in overdrive 24/7.  For example, at school, he can't eat in the lunchroom because the smell of all the food will make him crazy.  It will literally hurt is brain (his words).  So in your classroom, it's best not to have any air fresheners.  I know, I love them too!  You also should dim your lights (affects their sight) and not have any background music playing (affects their hearing).

2)  Aspies appear to have ADHD; just like "normal" students they need frequent brain breaks during the school day.  But they will need them more often~as much as one break in between each lesson.

3)  Please don't punish your Aspie for their behavior.  It's really not their fault for how they act.  It's their brains fault.  Trust me, if they could redo the calling out and rude comments that magically come out of their mouths, they would.

4)  Don't put your Aspie in a Time-Out.  A Time-Out is related to negative behaviors.  Instead, put them in a Take-a-Break area.  Have a special place for them to go in your room that is away from everyone else, it may be darker, behind a partition maybe.  But they need somewhere to go when their senses start to go into overdrive.  That's when their undesirable behaviors start to occur, which no one wants to happen.  Even them.

5)  Have a Caring Classroom, Fill-Your-Bucket, Brag Tag, SOMETHING in your classroom that is set up to assist your Aspie.  They need to feel like their environment is a safe place, one free from bully taunts and teases.  They WILL be teased so try to have a place where it's least likely for that to happen.

6)  Those with Asperger's Syndrome CANNOT read facial expressions!  You know that mean Teacher-Look that you have?  Forget it.  Look at your Aspie like that and they might even laugh back at you!  They don't understand facial expressions; they won't know if your mad, sad, happy, or disappointed with them by your face.  So you'll have to use visual and verbal cues instead.  For example, with my son, his teacher and myself use a thumbs-up, or one or two finger system with him.  If we put up one finger, he's not talking on topic.  If we put up two fingers, he's still off-topic and needs to just stop talking.  Period.  So have some system in place for them that's not some facial expression.

7)  If at possible, allow them to leave the classroom if they need to.  My son has a full-time aide at school.  When he feels like his senses are about to escalate, him and his aide go for a quick walk around the campus.  He needs to be out of the situation to get himself together.

8)  Have a system in place that you will be in constant contact with their parents.  A daily note, phone call, email...whatever.  Just make sure to let the parents know if they had a bad day especially because they may still be in a bad mood when they get home.  Prepare the parents for this by letting them know ahead of time.

And lastly...

PLEASE, even though my son drives you crazy, LOVE him like I would.  I'm not at his school to be with him, but YOU are.  I'm trusting you that you'll give him the love he needs to make it through the day and be as successful as he can.

I've put together the tips and tricks from above into two handouts for you!

I know this was a long post and I thank you for making it all the way through it!  If you ever have any questions or would like to talk to me about your Aspie, please feel free to contact me.  My email is listed on the handouts above.

Have a wonderful day my new friends and until later...Teach on!



  1. A super post, Cara. I know many more children with autism are now coming into mainstream schools so this information is always really helpful. Many thanks for your lovely posters too :)

    1. You're so welcome friend. And yes, I agree about the mainstreaming. I see it more and more each day. I'm so scared that Special Ed will someday be a thing of the past. OMGosh, I don't even want to think of the negative impact that will have on so many kiddos. Thanks for visiting friend, Cara;)

  2. Your son is adorable! I love your pictures! Thanks for the tips! They will be helpful to me with future students :)

    1. Thanks Michelle! I'm glad they'll be of some use to someone someday! I appreciate your visit and hope you'll come back again soon. And thanks for saying my son is a cutie; I think so too! Cara;)

  3. As a mum to an Aspie son, I can so relate to all these issues. I just love your description that your son is a genius with a mental impairment, as it describes the Asperger's personality so accurately. Thanks so much for your tips. It can be frustrating trying to teach an Aspie sometimes, but I wouldn't change my boy for all the world.

  4. Cara, What an honest, open, and amazing post! I have students in my class that were Aspies. I truly appreciate the tips and openness with which you posted. Thank you so much for bringing this topic out to teachers' minds!!

    You, two, look adorably alike!! Great job Mom!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...