Dealing with the Deceptive Genius of Asperger's Syndrome
Children diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome were called little professors by Dr. Asperger. This hearkens back to their ability to focus in on one subject and then learn all there is to know about it. They may read, study, hypothesize on their own, or simply take ownership of the topic in a variety of different ways. This unfortunately also points to the deceptive genius of Asperger's Syndrome: learning by rote.
Those diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome have the singular ability to learn long lists of facts and even complex items simply through memorization. Unfortunately, they may not actually understand what they have learned, and therefore no real learning took place. Instead, the process could be compared unfavorable to someone learning a complex issue by rote in a foreign language. Although she or he may sound very knowledgeable and come across very convincing, the individual most likely does not understand what it being said.
Dealing with the deceptive genius of Asperger's Syndrome requires a bit of savvy and also a good knowledge of the student. As a teacher you must learn to look past the unusually large vocabulary that so many students with the condition possess, and you also need to understand that the distinct way of speaking is not synonymous with expertise. Instead, it is simply one of the symptoms of the condition and a byproduct of the mechanics of the disease.
To this end, teachers need to know to ask for information in a number of different ways. For example, you may laud your student's ability to recite the exact phrasing in the text books, but then ask what this means. Conversely, when explaining a subject matter, use two or three different ways of looking at the situation and then explain it in as many different ways. This fosters the understanding that there are different ways to look at a problem and if one way does not reward the student with success, another way might actually make a problem a lot easier to understand.
On the other hand, a mistake often made by novice teachers who have never encountered a child with Asperger's Syndrome is to assume that genius in things mathematical automatically transfer to other subjects. Such teachers are frequently quite surprised to find out that instead of also dealing with a genius at literature, they are instead finding that they are face to face with someone who is not able to draw even the simplest conclusions from a fictional passage. This goes back to the inability of an Asperger's Syndrome child to read between the lines and establish social clues, but at the same time it also points to the fact that children with this condition have one or two topics with which they will do exceptionally well while the others lag behind.
The skilled teacher will seek to draw out the child with Asperger's Syndrome by connecting areas of interest with those in which the child shows a weakness. This of course offers a whole new possibility for class work.