Teaching Computer Science to Students with Asperger’s Syndrome
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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Original versionRibu, K. (2010). Teaching Computer Science to Students with Asperger’s Syndrome. In: E. Hjelmås (red.) Norsk Informatikkonferanse, (s. 99-111) Trondheim: Tapir http://www.nik.no/2010/10-Ribu.pdf
As more young people enter higher education, there will be an increasing number of students with physical and mental disabilities. Hidden disabilities like dyslexia, Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorders, (ADD and ADHD), Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and various degrees of reading and learning difficulties can be hard to spot, and university and college teachers are not trained to handle these students. Empirical studies show that there is an overrepresentation of people with Asperger’s Syndrome in computer science studies and in the computer industry. There are many programmers with autistic traits, many of whom are autodidacts. The profession attracts Aspergers and others with personality disorders who prefer computers to social settings, and the computer industry would be wise in trying to attract more varied personality types. Aspergers have narrow fields of interest, lack empathy, have difficulties reading other peoples mental states and understanding the needs of others. This causes problems with group tasks, and understanding user needs. The education institutions are being blamed for not being good enough, as they turn out computer professionals with little understanding of user needs. These are serious concerns in an age where focus is on accessible and user-friendly computer systems, user requirements and usability testing and involving users in the development process. This paper presents discussions on Asperger’s Syndrome found in sociological and psychological studies, guidelines for pedagogical methods, as well as personal experience with students with Asperger’s Syndrome. Some pedagogical techniques based on experience are suggested. Most of these techniques can be beneficial for all students and influence the way computer science is taught.