Teaching a student with Asperger Syndrome at University

This past semester marked a special semester in several ways for me. One of those special experiences I had was teaching a student with Asperger Syndrome in my general education class of ‘Information Technology and Its Applications’.

The first time I met my student in class I didn’t know about him and just saw a guy already sitting in the classroom when I entered 10 minutes prior to class (doesn’t happen to often that someone already is in class before it starts here in Thailand). He was wearing some headphones, checking some videos on youtube and greeting me in a friendly but quite loud voice.

During the duration of the class it became clear quite quickly that there were some differences in this student’s behavior compared to others. He was keeping the headphones on during the class but apparently didn’t listen to anything to loud since he listend to everything I said and was usually one of the first to answer open questions. Usually quite directly and again in a loud voice but the response speed was quite remarkable. Furthermore he did research of words and phrases he didn’t understand on the spot and hence was quite a few times able to explain things I just introduced for the first time.

Now I’m not a doctor or a specialist with Asperger Syndrome (we do have a colleague with the that syndrome though) but when his mom sent me an email explaining his condition I saw the relations. During classes he quite often left the room to drink something (we have water fountains on every floor). When he came back he usually said something like ‘yeah, refreshing’ or sth like that but this was usually one of the very few ‘odd’ behaviors.

I didn’t mean that in any offending or disgracing way by the way. Overall I have to say that I was very impressed with his behavior and performance. Apparently there were some situations that were ‘special’. When it came to group work for example he sometimes got a bit confused by keeping up with everyone and not doing everything by himself (the fact that he would have shows his dedication though). Besides that it was sometimes a bit challenging but more importantly also eye opening. Sometimes, when I was about to lose temper and patience, I thought about him and how he just focuses on things that matter.That really helped.

Furthermore it was refreshing to have a student in class who simply acted straight forward without thinking about how to talk nicely in order to get good grades or lie about missing assignments. If he forgot an assignment he said ‘oh no, I forgot it, sorry’, if he didn’t understand something he said ‘I don’t get it’ and if he was interested in a topic he said ‘wow, that’s cool’.

I might sound like a complete jerk by making an example out of this situation – that’s apparently far away from being my intention though. I’d rather like to share that experience since I believe it helped me in seeing things differently and adjusting my teaching methods and ideas a little bit.

Looking forward to further interesting semesters together!


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