University of Minnesota Morris

Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger’s Syndrome

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines autism as “a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication, and social interactions..”

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have average or above average intelligence and may exhibit some symptoms common to Autism Spectrum Disorders such as:

  • Impairment of social interactions
  • Impaired language or communication skills
  • Repetitive behavior
  • A restricted range of interests
  • Poor motor skills

Older adolescent and adults typically go through stages of stabilization of these symptoms following treatments that focus on strengths. In college students, Asperger’s is more likely to show/continue to show:

  • Impairment of social interactions
  • Increased stress/depression/anxiety because of aspects of these interactions
  • Inability to understand or disinterest in social norms, and fads
  • Creative “out of the box” thinking skills

Instructional Strategies for Faculty

The following strategies are suggested in order to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders have a diverse range of symptoms and also range in severity, so there is no “blanket” way to help all individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Finding out what works best for the individual prior to starting class (either from the student, OAS, parents, or individual aides) may be needed to insure the students success.
  • Alternative assignments that hold the students attention better may be recommended.
  • Flexibility goes a long ways with deadlines.
  • Keep instructions brief and as uncomplicated as possible.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures or look for a note-taker.
  • Utilizing a detailed class schedule will help keep students with Autism Spectrum Disorders organized.
  • Common accommodations for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders are alternative print formats, taped lectures, note-takers, alternative ways of completing assignments, early syllabus, exam modifications, priority registration, and study skills and strategies training.
  • Make every effort to make students feel comfortable if they disclose their disabilities to you. As with any student with a disability, don’t press students to explain their disabilities if they do not wish to do so.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her in a one-on-one conversation or e-mail at an appropriate time (not in the middle of a lecture slide etc.).
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class)