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 By Dan Coulter


It can take any teacher a while to figure out the strengths and challenges of children at the beginning of a school year.   A child with Asperger Syndrome, or a similar autism spectrum disorder, may not benefit from waiting to be figured out.


If youíre a parent, youíd like to get teachers as much information as possible about your child.  If youíre a teacher, you want to get helpful information in amounts you can absorb as youíre being deluged with "beginning of school" input.


Both parents and teachers can be well served by a technique thatís used by executives and politicians: the briefing document.


As a former corporate media relations manager, I prepared a lot of these.  As the name implies, a briefing document needs to be short.  Iíd condense what I wanted executives to know before they were interviewed by reporters to one or two pages.  Iíd include the name of the reporter and the publication, the topic of the interview, the questions they were likely to be asked, key data Iíd researched that might be helpful in answering, and some information about the reporter and his or her recent stories. 


The shorter the document, the more likely an executive (or busy teacher) will read it.  Sometimes the briefings were verbal.  I recall an evening when I briefed our company treasurer over the phone for a Wall Street Journal interview scheduled for the next morning.  She took my information with the phone to her ear, sitting on the edge of the tub as she bathed her four-year old son.


Parents can prepare a briefing document that profiles their child with Asperger Syndrome for teachers.  In addition to being concise, the information should be relevant.  What are the most important things you want your childís teacher to know?  Consider putting key points in a summary at the top of the document.


Your summary might read something like:


"Bill is an outgoing child with an encyclopedic knowledge of Greek mythology.  Last year he enthusiastically participated in class discussions and excelled academically.  He came in second in the school spelling bee.  Bill respects his teachers, but because he has Asperger Syndrome, he can sometimes appear to be intentionally rude when heís actually missing social cues.  For example, Bill can get caught up in answering a question and attempt to tell everything he knows on a subject.  Last year, Bill and his teacher worked out cues that would signal Bill that it was time to stop talking and give others a turn.  These cues, and a presentation that explained Billís Asperger tendencies to classmates, helped Bill contribute, be accepted, and have a successful year."


You can then flesh out the profile in more detail, remembering to focus on the positive and limit the document to a page or two.   That doesnít mean providing one page of tiny type and small margins.  Let the teacher see at a glance that itís a quick, interesting read.


Hereís a link to a Positive Student Profile questionnaire posted on the website of the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center.  http://www.cpacinc.org/wp- content/uploads/2009/12/ Positive-Student-Profile1.pdf


If youíre a parent, you can fill out this questionnaire and provide it to your childís teacher as is, or use it as a framework for a custom profile you write yourself.  If you're able to meet with the teacher, (a great idea) the briefing document helps you focus on key points -- and you can leave it with the teacher.  If youíre a teacher, you might want to share this questionnaire with parents to help you learn more about a child with Asperger Syndrome in your class.  


Providing a teacher with concise, helpful, accurate information about a child with Asperger Syndrome before school starts is a win for the child, his parents and the teacher.  And what a bonus to start off the school year with a win-win-win.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the DVDís "Asperger Syndrome, Success in the Mainstream Classroom" and "Understanding Elementary School Classmates with Asperger Syndrome."  You can find more articles on his website: www.coultervideo.com


Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter

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