Review – Working with Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom

Working with Asperger Syndrome inWorking with Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom – Gill D. Ansell

A guide for Teaching Assistants working with students with Aspergers Syndrome, written by a former teaching assistant. This book is a mixture of advise, personal experience and anecdotes bundled together in a fairly easy read.

This book is a straight-forward and easily accessed resource for teaching assistants. It has some decent and unique suggestions for navigating different situations with students, and for helping students learn in ways that suit them best. Ansell demonstrates how careful and well-placed use of humour can be very important in working with children and young people, such as with the use of her different acronyms.

Anecdotes throughout are well placed to demonstrate Ansell’s points and they are used frequently to break up the advise. This helps to contextualise the information and whenever books go to the effort of doing this, I find it much easier to take in the advice. It also has a positive approach and attitude towards autism without falling into the trap of making excuses for everything the students do because they have autism – for example, when students were rude or said unpleasant things to Ansell (including one student who said he was going to kill her and her family) she didn’t just let it go and decide that they didn’t know what they were saying or they couldn’t help it, she challenged them and worked through what they had said and done.

I had some issues with a few parts – there was a touch of the usual “I rose above all the kicking/biting/spitting/punching etc. and just got on with my job” that you often see in books by professionals in the autism field. I’ll touch on this in my other blog with the related post there but a recent survey suggested a not insignificant number of teaching assistants develop mental health problems during their time on the job and I find that not enough books advocate for debrief time or space to help these professionals work through and develop better mental wellbeing in what can be quite challenging jobs. My other main issue with another common theme – falling back on armchair diagnoses that have never been confirmed to point to and say that autism is a wonderful thing because Bill Gates might have it.

Overall though, it’s a decent resource for teaching assistants. I don’t know if many people outside of that demographic will get a lot of use out of it (outside of general interest) but it doesn’t really matter since that’s the core group it seems to be aimed at.

Any good? – Yeah, it’s not bad. It doesn’t go indepth and it’s not going to provide any significant information on planning or areas that teachers might need, but for teaching assistants it’s a solid resource.

Who for? – Teaching Assistants or other supporting staff in educational settings.

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