• CPS - Judith Carroll

    Asperger Syndrome

    By Judith Carroll, EdD, Adjunct Faculty for Kaplan University's Public Safety Program

    Asperger syndrome is part of the autism spectrum of disorders. While people with Asperger syndrome have many of the same characteristics of autism, they are different in that most often they have average to above average intelligence. It is said that “one percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3–17 have an autism spectrum disorder” (www.autism-society.org, n.d.). This probably means you have or will have such a student in one of your classes.

    Asperger syndrome is a recently named disability. It is named after Hans Asperger, who in 1944 noticed many similar characteristics of children. In 1981, Lorna Wing studied groups of children who seemed to be “different” and named the syndrome after Mr. Asperger. It was not until 1992 that the medical community considered Asperger syndrome as a distinct condition and included it as part of the DSM-IV (Autism Speaks; Family Services, n.d.).

    Online education may almost be the perfect setting for students with Asperger. There are no face-to-face meetings so eye contact is not an issue. People with Asperger are quick to use many references if they find a topic dear to them as deep research of facts is common. The routine of an online class and lack of many changes helps students with Asperger syndrome maintain control over their emotions and disability. If the directions state you must do a specific thing, then as a teacher, you can be sure these instructions will be followed to a T.

    Because as teachers we can never be sure if we have a student with Asperger syndrome in class, it is important to make sure we do the following:


    • Give precise directions.
    • Be careful using humor to make your point as it may be misunderstood.
    • Watch for students who seem to take everything literally.


    Students with Asperger often have superior academic skills, attention to detail, and great rote memory. But they often fail to grasp the “big” picture and lack being able to generalize skills and concepts (Autism Speaks; Family Services, n.d.).

    Some universities are now designing programs specifically for students with Asperger syndrome. These institutions are addressing social needs, class scheduling, and organizational skills that are often lacking. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona; and Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan are three that have specialized programs dealing with Asperger syndrome (Online Education for Autistic Students Grows, 2011).

    So the next time you find yourself wondering if a student has Asperger syndrome, take time to analyze their writings and interactions on the Discussion Board, and be prepared to give that extra touch of support.



    www.autism-society.org, n.d.

    Autism Speaks: Family Services, n.d.. www.autismspeaks.org

    Online Education for Autistic Students Grows, August 31, 2011.

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