Learners with Asperger’s Syndrome

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CHAPTER TWO: THE EXPLOITATION OF SOCIAL STORIES TO ASSIST THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF LEARNERS WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

“Asperger Syndrome is part and parcel of who the child is – as much as the colour of his eyes. It is not something we separate out from him and “cure”. Although it can be disabling, this condition brings with it many gifts and strengths. With wise and loving guidance, children who have Asperger’s Syndrome can become successful, independent adults – adults with difficulties, to be sure; adults with unique perspectives and talents, almost certainly” (Powers & Poland 2003:20-21).

INTRODUCTION

In chapter one it was stated that the main aim of this research is to investigate the technique of social stories, and to determine how it can be employed to promote the social development of learners with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was also stated that to accomplish this aim a study of the nature and severity of the social impairments of learners with Asperger’s Syndrome would be undertaken. This second chapter will therefore comprise a review of the literature on the nature of the main social impairments experienced by learners with Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as a detailed description of the system of social stories.
In this chapter a general profile of learners with Asperger’s Syndrome will be drawn for the reader’s information because it is felt that neither these learners, nor any of their impairments, can be seen in isolation; instead they and all their impairments together should be treated as parts of an indivisible whole. It will be of little use, for example, to single out a particular impairment without taking into account the other difficulties that these learners may experience. After all, one impairment or deficit may impinge (ie. have a specific conditioning effect) on this learner’s personality as a person-in-totality. Learners with Asperger’s Syndrome have the potential to offer society dreams and discoveries as yet unimagined (Safran & Safran 2001:393). As will be described in this chapter, as well as the next chapter, learners with Asperger’s Syndrome have many unique abilities that enable them to perceive the world differently and can therefore, according to the researcher, offer society a unique approach to life. As evidenced by the quote above the title of this chapter, and in accordance with the “social acceptance and awareness model” adopted for this research, the present chapter will be premised on the fact that despite the impairments learners with Asperger’s Syndrome have to contend with they can be accommodated into “normal” society with effective support and understanding, that is, their chances of successful coexistence are improved in a conducive environment (Lawson 2003:25). Indeed, with a few adjustments or modifications these learners could be very successful in the “neurotypical” world (Moyer & Breetz 2004:179). Admittedly this is no easy task, especially considering that many negative factors exist (eg. high levels of crime, violence, corruption, and often an inefficient and incompetent South African education system) that can impact on the education of all learners. Evidence abounds in the daily press that bear out these frightening facts (eg. reports that teachers molest learners, and that learners are kidnapped from school). It must be said, if only in passing, that if basic schooling is confronted by shallow, callous indifference, then what chance do these deserving learners with special needs have? However, a full and detailed investigation of the actual changes that need to be made to the South African school system (and society in general) to ensure the acceptance and inclusion of learners with Asperger’s Syndrome will not beundertaken here, as the main emphasis is on examining the social impairments of these learners and the development of a greater understanding of the unique nature of these learners, especially considering that teachers (both regular teachers and teachers qualified in special needs education) often find it difficult to understand this syndrome (Mertz 2005:114).

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CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTORY ORIENTATION AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.1 INTRODUCTION 
1.2 RATIONALE AND MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY 
1.2.1 Need for further research into the positive influence of storytelling 4 on learners with Asperger’s Syndrome
1.2.2 Need for increased awareness of the nature of social 4 impairments associated with Asperger’s Syndrome
1.2.3 Fostering positive responses to learners with Asperger’s Syndrome
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT 
1.3.1 Subproblems
1.4 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH 
1.5 EXPLANATION OF RELEVANT CONCEPTS
1.5.1 Learners with Asperger’s Syndrome
1.5.1.1 Asperger’s Syndrome
1.5.1.2 Learner
1.5.1.3 A learner with Asperger’s Syndrome
1.5.2 Impairments affecting social development
1.5.2.1 Impairments
1.5.2.2 Social development
1.5.3 Social stories
1.5.4 Theoretical models of “diff-ability”
1.5.4.1 Neurotypical
1.5.4.2 Theory of mind
1.5.4.3 Central coherence
1.5.4.4 Executive functioning
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN 
1.7 DIVISION OF CHAPTERS 
1.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO: THE EXPLOITATION OF SOCIAL STORIES TO ASSIST THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF LEARNERS WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME
2.1 INTRODUCTION 
2.2 HISTORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF ASPERGER’S SYNDROME 
2.3 SOCIAL IMPAIRMENTS OF LEARNERS WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME 
2.3.1 Play with other learners
2.3.2 Codes of conduct
2.3.3 Personal space
2.3.4 Eye contact
2.3.5 Face perception
2.3.6 Hidden curriculum
2.4 SOCIAL ASPECTS AND IMPLICATIONS OF LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENTS 
2.4.1 Pragmatics or the art of conversation
2.4.2 Literal interpretation
2.4.3 Prosody or the melody of speech
2.4.4 Pedantic speech
2.4.5 Idiosyncratic use of words
2.5 NARROW INTERESTS AND REPETITIVE ROUTINES 
2.5.1 Narrow interests
2.5.2 Repetitive routines
2.6 SOCIAL STORIES 
2.7 THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF SOCIAL STORIES ON SOCIAL 
DEVELOPMENT
2.8 CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER THREE: THEORETICAL MODELS OF “DIFF-ABILITY”
3.1 INTRODUCTION 
3.2 THEORY OF MIND 
3.2.1 Implications of theory of mind deficits
3.2.2 Support for theory of mind differences
3.3 CENTRAL COHERENCE 
3.3.1 Implications of central coherence differences
3.3.2 Support for learners with weak central coherence
3.4 EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
3.4.1 Implications of executive functioning differences
3.4.2 Support for learners with executive functioning deficits
3.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FOUR: RESEARCH DESIGN
4.1 INTRODUCTION 
4.2 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS 
4.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.3.1 Qualitative research design
4.3.2 Ethnographic research design
4.4 LITERATURE STUDY 
4.5 SAMPLING
4.5.1 Purposeful sampling
4.5.2 Criteria for sample selection
4.6 OBSERVATION
4.6.1 The role of researcher-participant observation
4.7 ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERVIEW 
4.7.1 Unstructured interview with a schedule
4.8 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION 
4.9 VALIDITY 
4.9.1 Maintaining the validity of qualitative research
4.10 ADMINISTRATION OF THIS RESEARCH
4.11 CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER FIVE: RESULTS OF THE EMPIRICAL STUDY
5.1 INTRODUCTION 
5.2 PROFILES OF CASE STUDIES 
5.2.1 Case study: R
5.2.2 Case study: O
5.3 TABULAR SUMMARY OF EMPIRICAL STUDY (TWO INTERVIEWS) 
5.4 DISCUSSION OF RESULTS 
5.4.1 Social impairments
5.4.1.1 Ability to play with other learners
5.4.1.2 Awareness of social conventions
5.4.1.3 Correct distance from listener
5.4.1.4 Correct eye contact
5.4.1.5 Body language / face perception understood
5.4.1.6 Understanding the hidden curriculum
5.4.1.7 Temper tantrums
5.4.2 Language impairments
5.4.2.1 One-sided conversations
5.4.2.2 Ability to retrieve a conversation
5.4.2.3 Literal interpretation of comments
5.4.2.4 Unusual tone of voice
5.4.2.5 Pedantic speech
5.4.2.6 Idiosyncratic use of words
5.4.3 Narrow interests and repetitive routines
5.4.3.1 Narrow interests
5.4.3.2 Repetitive routines
5.4.4 Theory of mind
5.4.4.1 Ability to understand emotions
5.4.4.2 Lack of capacity to display empathy
5.4.4.3 Expectation that others know their thoughts
5.4.4.4 Ability to deceive
5.4.4.5 Ability to take turns
5.4.4.6 Ability to understand “’pretend” play
5.4.4.7 Preference for fact rather than fiction
5.4.5 Central coherence
5.4.5.1 Ability to focus on specific details
5.4.5.2 Not receptive to new ideas
5.4.5.3 Ability to make decisions
5.4.5.4 Ability to generalise
5.4.5.5 Ability to learn from previous mistakes
5.4.5.6 Understanding different word contexts
5.4.5.7 Exceptional long-term memory
5.4.6 Executive functioning
5.4.6.1 Ability to plan a task
5.4.6.2 Ability to start and stop activities
5.4.6.3 Ability to arrange sentences correctly
5.4.6.4 Ability to manage time
5.4.6.5 Organisational skills
5.4.7 Social acceptance
5.4.7.1 Blame for poor parenting
5.4.7.2 Social adaptation to specific learners’ needs
5.4.7.3 Society’s willingness to respect learners’ diversity
5.4.7.4 Teacher’s positive attitude essential
5.4.8 The impact of social stories
5.4.8.1 Social acceptance
5.4.8.2 Increased empathy
5.4.8.3 Play with other learners
5.4.8.4 Ability to take turns
5.5 CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIMITATIONS
6.1 INTRODUCTION 
6.2 COMPARISON OF THE LITERATURE STUDY AND THE EMPIRICAL  RESEARCH
6.3 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH 
6.4 LIMITATIONS 
6.5 CONCLUSION 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 

 

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