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Attention to detail;All ages;Special needs;Books

ASPERGER SYNDROME: a Practical Guide for Teachers. By Val Cumine, Julia Leach and Gill Stevenson. David Fulton pound;13.99.

Some children become fascinated by Thomas the Tank Engine.

This guide to Asperger Syndrome is based on the authors' three-year research project in Lancashire. It places Asperger in the context of other autistic disorders and gives insights into these intellectually able children who experience significant social difficulties.

The case studies give examples of children we may recognise, socially isolated but not necessarily worried by it, who make little eye contact and may speak in a quaintly pedantic manner, who interpret instructions literally (keep your pen on the paper).

Thomas the Tank Engine videos may have a grip, and electricity pylons or central heating pipes can be an absorbing interest. In schools, I have met children fascinated by washing machines and car registration numbers.

Practical teaching suggestions are sound, including a picture schedule to help start and finish a task, clues for using clear unambiguous language, and tips to encourage social interaction.

A chapter is given to behavioural intervention using examples viewed through the "Asperger lens", looking at the purpose of the behaviour from the child's point of view. Stress levels are considered with the child needing his or her own space.

With more Asperger children in mainstream schools, this accessible and practical guide gives teachers and assistants a sympathetic understanding of these "fascinating and troublesome children" and inspires confidence in finding a way forward within the curriculum.

Bridget Evetts is special needs officer (advisory and monitoring) for West Sussex

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