Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Students with Asperger's in a Language Classroom

What would you do if you strongly suspected that a student in your language classroom had Asperger's? The oral component in language courses is obviously extremely important. There are no lectures in such courses. If a language course is structured the way it should be, the bulk of each class session should be dedicated to students talking and doing activities in pairs and in groups. There are also presentations where you enact scenes or dialogues in front of the classroom. There are oral exams where you are supposed to talk with your classmate(s) while the professor observes and asks questions.

No matter how well you write in the target language, there is simply no way to pass a language course without participating in these activities that are based on talking to people.

So what should one do if one suspects that a student might have Asperger's? What if such a student refuses to participate in any of the group activities and remains silent during the oral exam?

I really understand how hard it is for an Aspie to be in a classroom where you can't just sit quietly in the corner taking notes and where you are constantly thrust into situations that you hate. But I have no idea what I can do for such students if they never came to talk to me about the issues they are having. (Which is also understandable because approaching strangers and starting discussions with them, let alone mentioning your autism, is also extremely painful for Aspies.)

Does anybody have any insights? I feel horrible failing a person for having Asperger's but if a student has no oral exam, no participation, no presentations I simply have no other way to go. Unless I start falsifying grades and giving out points for activities that were not performed, which is something I can't do.

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