Asperger’s Syndrome


Asperger’s Syndrome falls into the Autism Spectrum. It differs from Autism because there is an absence of any language delays. According to the Autism Society, Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is also referred to as a “spectrum disorder” because individuals with Autism may be affected differently and to varying degrees. At this point, there is no identified cause for Autism. Autism is not curable but interventions and supports may help improve individuals outcomes.

An individual with Asperger’s Syndrome may only be mildly affected cognitively and have good language skills. According to the Autism Society, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome may be socially awkward, and may not understand social rules. Individuals may also make limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation, and not accurately understand the use of gestures. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome also have average to above average intelligence.
Medical Concerns:
Medical concerns are not specific to Asperger’s Syndrome and may vary depending upon each individual.
Students with Asperger’s Syndrome are typically high functioning and may have difficulty with organization and writing tasks. Individuals also may have rigid behaviors with regards to schedules. Accommodations that may be beneficial to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome include: clearly established and ordered routines, warning and preparation when changes are anticipated, planning and practicing of communication strategies and social routines, earplugs or noise-canceling headsets in loud environments such as hallways, presentations or a lunchroom, a quiet area where the student can take a break if necessary, visual schedules and graphic organizers, visual rather than auditory instructions, computer use especially word processing for writing, and providing notes versus requiring student to write their own notes. Providing student’s with Asperger’s Syndrome a visual schedule and providing a warning prior to changes, including substitute teachers and changes to daily routines, can eliminate unnecessary stress. It is beneficial to stick to a structured routine as much as possible, and prepare for any changes or transitions. Teacher’s should be aware that students with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to interpret language literally and it is suggested to avoid sarcastic behaviors. Tone of voice and facial expressions also may be difficult to interpret for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. When creating social stories to rehearse appropriate reactions and interactions, it is important to remember to model and practice in multiple environments to ensure that individuals truly have learned the targeted skill.

Attention Deficit Disorder/
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADD and AD/HD are acronyms that are commonly interchanged with each other. According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, the clinical diagnosis is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or AD/HD. AD/HD is broken down into three different subtypes: Combined Type, Predominantly Inattentive Type, and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. Many people use the term ADD as a generic term for all types of AD/HD.
The most common characteristics of AD/HD are individuals being easily distracted or having difficulty sustaining focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. According to the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) some common symptoms of ADHD include: often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes; often has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often fails to follow instructions carefully and completely; losing or forgetting important things; feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming; running or climbing excessively; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers before hearing the whole question; often has difficulty awaiting turn. Other common associated problems that may coincide with an individual who has been diagnosed with ADHD include: fine motor deficits, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety and/or tics.
Medical Concerns:
Individuals who are affected by AD/HD do not have any additional medical concerns however if an individual is on medication, there may be side effects such as loss of appetite, constipation, or difficulty falling asleep.
Allowing students with ADHD to stand or move during work may be more productive than requiring a student to sit and work. Also providing quick breaks between tasks and opportunities for movement may allow an individual with ADHD to focus and complete tasks more efficiently. Reassurance and encouragement, along with frequently complimented positive behavior may also be beneficial. Reviewing instructions when giving new assignments to make sure individuals comprehend directions also may be effective to provide as many opportunities to be successful. Often students who struggle in school never receive positive notes home. Students may grow less confident and have less motivation and enjoyment when attending school. Building a relationship with students and sending positive notes home by promote individuals learning.

In order to support an individual with ADHD’s inattention, the following accommodations may be made: seat student in quiet area, seat student near good role model, seat student near "study buddy,” increase distance between desks, allow extra time to complete assigned work, shorten assignments or work periods to coincide with span of attention; use timer, and break long assignments into smaller parts so student can see end to work. The following are suggestions to support an individuals organization: provide organization rules, encourage student to have notebook with dividers and folders for work, provide student with homework assignment book, supervise writing down of homework assignments, send daily/weekly progress reports home, regularly check desk and notebook for neatness and encourage neatness rather than penalize sloppiness.


According to the Autism Society, Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is also referred to as a “spectrum disorder” because individuals with Autism may be affected differently and to varying degrees. At this point, there is no identified cause for Autism. Autism is not curable but interventions and supports may help improve individuals outcomes.
Individuals with Autism may have different characteristics however the following may be signs: lack or delay in speech, repetitive language or motor mannerisms (flapping or twirling of objects), limited eye contact, lack of interest in peer relationships, and persistent fixation on parts of objects. The following is a list of traits that may be present in an individual with Autism:
  • Insistence on sameness; resistance to change
  • Difficulty in expressing needs, using gestures or pointing instead of words
  • Repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language
  • Laughing (and/or crying) for no apparent reason; showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
  • Preference to being alone; aloof manner
  • Tantrums
  • Difficulty in mixing with others
  • Not wanting to cuddle or be cuddled
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
  • Sustained odd play
  • Spinning objects
  • Obsessive attachment to objects
  • Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain
  • No real fears of danger
  • Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills
  • Non-responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf, although hearing tests in normal range

Medical Concerns:
Medical concerns are not specific to Autism and may vary depending upon each individual.

Students with Autism are on a spectrum and therefore each individual with Autism will be different and different accommodations will be beneficial. The following is a list of accommodations that may work for individuals with Autism: Repetition of instruction, rephrasing questions, redirection to activities, modeling of task, reinforcement, visual cues to modify behaviors and for transition, visual learning strategies, assignments broken down to smaller tasks, verbal & visual prompts and cues, allow for movement, picture schedule, models and a reward system. Occupational Therapist may offer suggestions for individuals who need assistive technology devices. Shortened writing utensils, weighted pens or pencils, grips, and highlighters are some accommodations that may be beneficial.

Individuals with Autism benefit from consistent and regular routines. Transitions and changes may be difficult. Providing individuals with autism notice of changes before they occur may be helpful. Using social stories to support transitions and new situations can limit anxiety and stress. Social stories can be created to tell what is going to happen in any new situation including field trips and new social situations. Using picture schedules can also be helpful.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though Cerebral Palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later.
The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.
Medical Concerns:
Cerebral Palsy is not able to be cured at this point. There are however treatment options that are available that may benefit individuals with Cerebral Palsy. Options may include physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, drugs relax muscle spasms, and alleviate pain; surgery to correct abnormalities or release tight muscles; braces and other orthotic devices; wheelchairs and rolling walkers; and communication aids.
Individuals with Cerebral Palsy generally have average academics abilities. Individuals with Cerebral Palsy may have difficulty with fine motor skills such as handwriting. In addition, individuals with Cerebral Palsy may be able to speak, but they may be difficult to understand. Accommodations that may be made for individuals with Cerebral Palsy include: allowing individuals to using a portable word processor instead of writing, allowing additional time to complete assignments that handwriting is required, allow lectures to be recorded instead of taking notes for individuals to refer to while completing assignments, allow a scribe for written tasks such as tests, and eliminate timed tasks. When students are younger, you may provide them with tiles with letters on them to use for handwritten tasks. Adaptive materials such as pencils and scissors may also be used with the recommendation of an Occupational Therapist.

Down Syndrome

According to, Down Syndrome is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about 1 in every 800 babies. Down Syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21. When babies are conceived, they receive 23 chromosomes from each parent. Babies who are born with down syndrome are born with an extra 21st chromosome.
Down Syndrome was named after a British Doctor John Langdon Down, who first described characteristics of Down Syndrome in 1887. In 1959, the extra 21st chromosome was determined to be the cause of Down Syndrome. At this point, there is no way to prevent Down Syndrome but it is believed that as a mother’s age increases, there is a higher risk of having a child born with Down Syndrome.
Individuals with Down Syndrome tend to have similar physical appearances. Individuals may have a flat facial profile, upward slant to the eyes, small ears, and a protruding tongue. Some resources provide conflicting information stating that individuals with Down Syndrome have larger tongues and others state the individuals with Down Syndrome have smaller mouths which make their tongues look larger. Individuals with Down Syndrome also tend to have lower muscle tone which is also referred to as hypertonia. Individuals with Down Syndrome may appear to be more flexible due to their low muscle tone. This may also cause individuals with Down Syndrome to reach milestones such as crawling, sitting up, and walking later than their same aged peers. Lower muscle tone may also negatively affect individuals fine motor skills, such as handwriting, cutting with a scissors, and buttoning clothing. Eating and speech may also be negatively affected by low muscle tone.
Down Syndrome affects each individual differently. Typically people with Down Syndrome have a mild to moderate intellectual impairment. Each person is capable of developing however they may develop at a different pace than their same age peers.
Medical Concerns:
Some individuals with Down Syndrome may not have any additional medical concerns however, others may have significant concerns. Individuals with Down Syndrome have a higher likelihood of being affected by a congenital heart defect. Also kids with Down Syndrome are more likely to have problems with hearing and vision.
Students who have Down Syndrome have a below average IQ. It is still important for individuals with Down Syndrome to interact with their same aged peers. Individuals with Down Syndrome may learn different from their peers. Strategies may work different with each individual however, teaching individuals with a “whole-word” strategy is recommended over a phonic approach. Classroom management is also important. Individuals with Down Syndrome are easily distracted. Another adaptation is to be conscientious when you arrange your classroom. Provide limited distractions for individuals with Down Syndrome who may have difficulty maintaining focus. Avoid placing students by the window or doorway or by sounds that may be distracting. Due to individuals with Down Syndrome having low muscle tone, additional supports may be required to increase muscle tone. It is important to talk to a Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist to make accommodations that are right for each individual student.


Hydrocephalus is defined as a build up of fluid on the brain which causes the brain to swell. The term Hydrocephalus means “water on the brain.” Individuals may be born with Hydrocephalus or it may occur when an individual becomes older. When an infant develops Hydrocephalus, fluid builds up on the brain and causes the soft spot of the head to bulge. When children are older, they may be affected by Hydrocephalus due to infections relating to the central nervous system, or injury or trauma. According to Yahoo Health, the “water on the brain” is due to a problem with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid or the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The fluid brings nutrients to the brain, takes away waste from the brain, and acts as a cushion. The build up of cerebrospinal fluid puts pressure on the brain, which is then pushed against the skull, which causes damage to the brain.
Symptoms of Hydrocephalus may include seizures, irritability, vomiting, and eyes that tend to gaze downwards. Individuals with Hydrocephalus often have poor hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. Depending upon the age of an individual when they develop Hydrocephalus, symptoms may differ. If an infant develops Hydrocephalus a symptom may be a rapid increase in the size of their head because the bones of the skull have not yet been closed.
Cognitive abilities are different for each individual affected by Hydrocephalus. Individuals with Hydrocephalus may be affected by memory deficits, psychological deficits, motor skill disabilities, vision problems, hearing difficulties, and sensitivity to sound.
Medical Concerns:
The intent of treatment to those with Hydrocephalus is to increase flow and prevent blockage of cerebrospinal fluid. Shunts may be surgically inserted into an individual’s brain to allow the cerebrospinal fluid to move fluidly. Shunts are intended to be helpful however there is a risk for infection or obstruction of the shunt.

According the the Hydrocephalus Association, accommodations that may be beneficial for individuals with Hydrocephalus in a classroom include: ensure that you have the individual’s attention before telling or showing something, give short assignments that can be done successfully, use schedules and lists wherever possible, allow verbal reporting as an acceptable alternative to writing, provide additional time to complete timed tasks such as tests and assignments, provide a setting with limited distractions for test taking, decrease the required quantity of written work, and break down tasks and instructions into small, clear steps.
Additional recommendations for individuals with Hydrocephalus include providing notes for students, using timer, reduce clutter in work areas to limit distractions, and provide an organizer to keep track of assignments and daily behaviors and accomplishments.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, and counting, are often performed with the intention making obsessive thoughts go away.

The severity of OCD can very with each individual. Some may be so strongly affected by OCD that they may become unable to work or complete tasks. Others may cope by avoiding certain situations. According to the International OCD Foundation, here is a list of common compulsions:
• Concern about evenness or exactness
• Concern with a need to know or remember
• Fear of losing or forgetting important information when throwing out something
• Unable to decide whether to keep or to discard things
  • Fear of losing things
  • Washing your hands too much or in a certain way
  • Excessive showering, bathing, tooth brushing, grooming or toilet routines
  • Rereading or rewriting
• Repeating routine activities (examples: going in or out doors, getting up or down from chairs)
• Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
• Repeating activities in“multiples” (examples: doing a task three times because three is a “good”, “right”, “safe” number)

Medical Concerns:
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, OCD may also be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders or depression. Certain medications and/or therapies may help individuals depending upon the severity of OCD.

The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health recommends the following accommodations for individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: try to accommodate situations and behaviors that the student has no control over, educate the student’s peers about OCD, be attentive to changes in the student’s behavior, try to redirect the student’s behavior--this works better than using “consequences,” allow the student to do assignments such as oral reports in writing, allow the student to redo assignments to improve scores or final grades, post the daily schedule in a highly visible place so the student will know what to expect. It may also be beneficial to consider the use of technology for individuals with OCD.

Oppositional/Defiant Disorder

The American Academy of Child and Adult Psychiatry defines Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) as an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with day to day functioning.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adult Psychiatry, symptoms of ODD may include:
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Often questioning rules
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Frequent anger and resentment
  • Mean and hateful talking when upset
  • Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking
Medical Concerns:
If an individual is presenting signs of ODD, it is important to talk to a physician. Other disorders may be present such as AD/HD, anxiety, learning disabilities, and mood disorders.
It is important for teachers to realize the importance of remaining calm to prevent escalating situations and how their reactions can positively or negatively influence situations. Students who have ODD are seeking responses from individuals. Focus on specific behaviors and be willing to accept other behaviors while trying to improve the targeted area. management plan. Thus, target only a few important behaviors, rather than trying to fix everything. It is also important to prove consistency and follow through with regards to student’s behaviors. It is just as important to provide praise for individuals when they perform the wanted behaviors. It is important to avoid all power struggles with individuals by refraining from making comments and avoiding confrontation that may start an argument. Raising your voice with a student who has ODD may also create an argument, it is important to remember that silence is a more appropriate response. Being silent shows the student that you are willing to listen until the student finishes. Giving student with ODD choices also improves the likelihood for compliance. When you can tell an individual with ODD is becoming upset or frustrated, it is important to not force a conversation. It may be helpful to allow the student to “cool down” before becoming re-engaged in the classroom.
The following is a list of classroom management suggestions to create the best learning environment for a student with ODD:
  • Establish clear classroom rules
  • Post the daily schedule
  • Make sure academic work is at the appropriate level.
  • Pace instruction
  • Include social skills, including anger management, conflict resolution and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner in regular lessons
  • Minimize downtime and plan transitions carefully
  • Allow the ODD student to redo assignments to improve their score
  • Structure activities so the student with ODD is not always left out or is the last person picked

Tourette Syndrome
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that is defined by multiple motor and/or tics that last for more than one year. Symptoms may include involuntary tics such as face and arm movements. Tics typically occur repetitively and rapidly. Facial tics may include eye blinking or nose twitching. Verbal tics may include grunting, shouting, barking, and throat clearing. According to the National Tourette Syndrome Association, males are affected by Tourette Syndrome 3 to 4 times more than females.
Symptoms change periodically in number, frequency, type and severity–even disappearing for weeks or months at a time. Commonly, motor tics may be eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging and facial grimacing and vocal tics may be throat clearing, sniffing and tongue clicking.
Medical Concerns:
Tourette Syndrome varies between each individual and may range from mild to moderate. Other disorders which may be associated with Tourette Syndrome include AD/HD, ODD, OCD, and learning disabilities.
Individuals with Tourette Syndrome may be disruptive to class. It is important for all individuals to remember that tics are involuntary. It is important that adults do not discipline individuals for tics but teach tolerance and acceptance to students. In order in teach tolerance, it is important to work with other students to help them understand the tics and reduce ridicule and teasing.
It may be beneficial to provide opportunities for short breaks out of the classroom to provide some relaxation to stop the routine of tics. Also allowing students to complete tests in a small group setting, where an individual does not have to try to suppress tics, may allow the individual to put all of their energy and focus towards completing the test.