I have a student who's on the autistic spectrum. He exhibits several disruptive behaviors in class, such as
- Inability to moderate his volume/interjections: he will shout out questions and comments irrespective of whether others are speaking (be it myself or other students).
- Unintentionally mocking other students: when other students ask questions, he will sometimes say things like "you should know this stuff by now!"
- Physically inappropriate behavior: he will lie down on the floor in front of his seat, or sneeze loudly. He will sit in the front row and at times pick up stuff from my table (e.g. my notes or my markers) and play with them.
I recognize that he cannot control most of these things, and that they're not done with ill intent. Thus, my inclination is to handle it in a more forgiving manner than I would a normal disruptive student, but this is not a straightforward solution. First, there are many other students who shouldn't suffer because of one disruptive student. Second, when I do make a harsher comment he often completely shuts down for the rest of the class, which makes me feel really guilty.
The undergraduate office is aware of the situation and has already received numerous complaints from other courses he attended. The problem is that their hands are mostly tied as he is not registered as a special needs student (I'm guessing his parents are refusing to do this for their own reasons), though he is officially diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Other lecturers have basically been treating him increasingly harshly, or ignoring him.
I am wondering whether anyone here has any experience with these kinds of situations, and how did you approach it. I am more than happy to accommodate him, but would not want to compromise the course quality for everyone else.
- I had a talk with the student and things are much better. He’s been a positive force in the class since (albeit a slightly loud one). Thank you for the suggestions!
- I tried to strike a positive tone rather than a disciplinary one. He told me his parents will kick him out of the house if I contact them so that’s definitely not happening.
- The undergraduate office was sympathetic but is limited in what they can do.