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Working with kids with Asperger's

Discussion in 'Health & Healing' started by 9-10ths_Penguin, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Hey, all.

    So here's my situation: I'm a volunteer coach for a robotics team at an elementary school. One of the kids on the team has Asperger's syndrome. While he's sharp as a tack when it comes to the technical side of things, he seems to be struggling with teamwork and collaboration, which are both huge parts of the activities that the club does.

    To complicate matters, he's become alienated from the rest of the team. At our tournament recently, he decided that he had figured out a better to do one of the tasks, so acting on his own and without anyone else noticing until it was too late, he erased half the program to re-write it (in the process, overwriting the version of the program that the kids had written together). When the other kids came back to their pit area and saw what he had done, they were livid that he had "sabotaged" them this way. Some of the other team members still aren't speaking to him.

    I'm an engineer, not a teacher, and I've never had any training on how to deal with kids with special needs. There are teachers involved in the team, but they rotate from week to week, so I'm the main adult leader for the group.

    I see real potential in this kid, and I think that the environment of the club could be a good one to help build his social skills, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to how make that happen, especially now that a fair chunk of the club don't want to have anything to do with him.

    I know that we've got a number of members here who either have experience working with kids with Asperger's or have Asperger's themselves. Do any of you have any advice for my approach to him or the other kids, or how I can help this kid or patch things up in the group? Obviously, because of privacy reasons if nothing else, I can't go to the kids and say "psst... ____ has Asperger's, so keep these things in mind when you're interacting with him..."
     
    #1 9-10ths_Penguin, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
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  2. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Greased up & ready for action!
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    Some worthless advice:
    Social skills which you take for granted don't come naturally to him.
    Explain to him how such things work, just as you would technical concepts.
     
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  3. methylatedghosts

    methylatedghosts Can't brain. Has dumb.

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    I like that ^

    You will need to make it relative to his interests, and in a way that he will understand. He'll probably be very happy doing everything on his own without the others there :p.

    Explain to him that the group he's a part of is like a big robot. That there are rules in place that keep it running. Imagine if a part of the programme went and did part the job that another program was written to do. You would edit the first program and re-write it so that it wouldn't do that.

    ...or something like that. xD

    He understands technical things, so help him to understand social interaction through that.
     
  4. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Greased up & ready for action!
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    Keep us posted on how it goes, eh?
     
  5. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Will do.

    We've only got one more meeting this year, but we'll be going on a new competition/challenge in January.
     
  6. croak

    croak Trickster

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    Great advice. He might not get social rules, but he understands programming rules. If he wants to edit the program, he could "file a bug report". He could say (or write down, if it's easier) what the "bug" is, and how it should be fixed. Have the rest of the group decide on whether it actually is a bug, and if it is, if that's the best way to fix it. Also, you need someone to review your code to make sure you didn't make a careless error: a last-minute change could end up making the program crash, and that's the last thing anyone wants.

    And if there is a member that doesn't totally hate him, maybe they could try and stick by him, strike up conversations about robotics and things he likes, maybe get coding lessons from him or something. It might be easier to get along with one person rather than the whole club. It would also help reinforce anything you might tell him.

    If they're teenagers, that might be easier said than done, but it's a possibility.

    Hope this helped some.
     
  7. England my lionheart

    England my lionheart Rockerjahili Rebel
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    The Child should have a support plan,in it should be a profile,communication and support needs,this will be essential to understand the Childs particular needs as Aspergers differs from mild to severe.
     
  8. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    I just realized that I didn't post any updates. Things are actually going great now!

    In the "off-season" last year, one of the teachers for the team talked to his parents about what was going on, and also had a talk with him, where she spelled out what was wrong with his behaviour before and what was expected of him going forward... and it seems to have worked.

    Ever since then, he's been really productive and involved. Sometimes there are minor issues, but on the whole, things have gone really well. The other kids get along with him and listen to him, and even though frustrations occasionally come up (this tournament is supposed to be a challenge, and the kids don't always agree on strategy or robot design), he's taken them in stride.

    And it doesn't seem like the other kids have held a grudge over what happened at the last tournament. They're all focused on the new tournament now, so it's all water under the bridge.

    I'm really happy with what's happened... especially with how the kids listen to him and respect his ideas. It seems like it's really helping his confidence.
     
  9. Magic Man

    Magic Man Reaper of Conversation

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    That is some great news! I'm glad it's working out that well. That sounds like a fun tournament, too.
     
  10. croak

    croak Trickster

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    Fantastic news! Let us know how the tournament works out.
     
  11. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Will do. It's at the end of the month.

    I'm a bit nervous because I'm going to miss the last few practices they have before the tournament.

    On one of the teams (the school has two for this one), the lead programmer (not the kid I described in the OP - a different one) has this habit of going full-steam ahead on his programs without stopping to confirm that his assumptions are correct or testing each individual part, and then not being able to figure out what's gone wrong when he's confronted by a complete but buggy program that doesn't do what he wants. I've been trying to coach him on how to mentally "step through" a program from the robot's point of view and to test his assumptions in small parts to make sure they're right... I just hope that he remembers what I told him when I'm not around to coach him.
     
  12. methylatedghosts

    methylatedghosts Can't brain. Has dumb.

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    That's really wonderful! I'm glad to see this success ^_^. Many kids with mental disabilities get left behind because either people don't want to put in the effort, or people are unsure about how to deal with them.
     
  13. Just_me_Mike

    Just_me_Mike Well-Known Member

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    In light of my recent idiocy, you may or may not find help in my words, and it is probably much to late to post on the topic.

    Children with Autism or Asperger's are different. It does no good to desire them to be the same (not saying you do, but it is common) and interactions are always going to be dictated by the child. They seem to share something in the brain with sociopaths, in that they can be cold as ice to others, but not intending to be so, and never really capable of understanding their actions on an emotional level.
    I have had to make it technical with my 16 year old and over the years he views social functions as mathematics or some other technical project. He tries different methods of interaction, but once engaged with strangers he loses control and becomes dominant in the engagement ending up being the only one talking or dictating what others should be doing.

    My advice is that the parent should allow and encourage you the staff to be open about his condition so that kids after a few days will start feeling comfortable. If it is not explained, the child's actions will not compute with other kids and they will distance themselves because no one is explaining the problem they see before them.

    Good luck, and if you have any other questions, just let me know.
     
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  14. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I agree with Mike. I taught for a few years (some would say too many) and the confidentiality thing is taken too far, even as far as parents not letting the teachers know of a diagnosis. Then when a shrink or some other professional calls the school to get some info on any reported changes in behavior because of a change in meds, its: "What? She was on meds?" I often spoke to classmates about people's conditions, whether simple or complex. I mean, how do you answer another student's legitimate question "Why does Joey get to go to the washroom more often than I do?" ""Well, son, Joey has a medical condition that affects his bladder control. You don't."
     
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