Whichachooladvisor.com met long-time Dubai resident and Asperger’s Syndrome author- Kathy Hoopmann to discuss the motivation behind her new book "The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom."
What is the motivation behind your long-term interest in Asperger’s Syndrome?
I first became aware of Asperger Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) around 1997 when I could see how it impacted various people around me; from students, friends and family. At the time there was a lot of negativity surrounding the diagnosis. However, although I could see that children with Asperger’s could face difficulties, I could also see that they had loads of positive traits too. I wrote my first Asperger book, Blue Bottle Mystery, to show that the main character, Ben, was clever and funny and loyal and just happened to have Asperger’s at the same time. This has been the theme of all my books on ASD, that sure, these children might have some problems, what child doesn’t, but looks at all the great things they can do too!
Previously you were a teacher – to what extend did you draw on this experience while writing "The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom?”
I taught full time and part time for twenty years as a primary school teacher. I remember how year after year, more and more children with needs I did not understand came through the door. I have also written about Asperger Syndrome for fifteen years and talked to many parents and teachers about the needs of the child in the classroom. So I put these two areas of expertise together and came up with a book I wish I had owned many years ago.
This is your first Asperger’s manual- what made you decide the time was right to write something more ‘instructional?’
This is my second teacher manual. The first was An Environmental Handbook for Teachers that was published by Jerboa Books, a Dubai publisher. As per its name, it was written to help teachers understand and implement environmental awareness in the classroom.
As an author of books on ASD, many people asked my advice about school issues. There are a lot of good books out there about schooling; some very theoretical, and some short and sweet, but none of them were comprehensive and yet simple to read at the same time. So I decided to write a book that a teacher could use without having to read every page. I knew that for any book to be useful, it had to be easy to navigate, simple to understand and be filled with tips that are workable in the average classroom. I also hope that little things might stick in the mind of a teacher that will unlock ways to help their students.
In addition to educators, who do you see benefiting from "The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom?”
This book will be hugely useful for anyone who has an interest in a child with ASD. Although it is obviously targeted at teachers, I can see parents reading the book from cover to cover in order to be able to suggest helpful and realistic ways a teacher can support their child. Homeschooling parents, music teachers, football coaches, grandparents, etc. can all benefit from the information and tips in the book.
How did you set about researching the manual?
Along with my own teaching experience and the knowledge I have gleaned from writing my other books, I spoke to children and parents and teachers and asked their views on issues regarding the classroom and listened to their complaints and noted the things they were most happy with. I read books, I did a lot of web research, I listened to many You Tube videos made by people on the spectrum, I joined Asperger chat rooms and read copious blogs.
Tell us a little about what we can expect from the book.
I have set out the book with a description of many of the most common issues children with Asperger’s face, such as being literal thinkers, not understanding the perspective of others and having difficulty adapting to change, plus I included a large section on sensory issues. Then I added an explanation from the child’s perspective which is often vastly different from a parent or teacher’s perspective. I followed that up with suggestions on how to help the child in the classroom and finally a section on how the teacher can help the parents support the child at home.
We asked Kathy to give us her top tips for everyone who might be educating and/or parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, and they are:
Listen to the child. Be fair. Listen to the child.
If a child appears naughty, take the time to ask why she behaved that way. Her answer may surprise you. Perhaps she did not hear you clearly, or at all, or took your instructions literally.
Be aware that children on the spectrum do not read body language well. If you are showing anger or impatience by crossing your arms and frowning, then it’s time for you to change. State your feelings clearly and the child will respond.
Don’t give homework. Okay, I know this is unrealistic but it would make a world of difference to the child and his family.
Never forget that the child you are teaching is loved by someone. This one should never be forgotten.
"The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom" by Kathy Hoopmann is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers (www.jkp.com) and via all major online bookstores.