Generalization is a term used to refer to learning in one setting that is automatically carried over to other settings. If your child learns that he must raise his hand in school, he will likely raise his hand in Sunday school even without being specifically taught to do so. He has generalized learning from one situation to a similar situation.
Most children generalize learning easily. If you teach them it is wrong to steal candy from a store, they automatically figure out that it is also wrong to steal cookies. Asperger’s Disorder children, however, are very poor at generalizing and do not learn from experience. Being disciplined for hitting a peer on the playground does not result in learning that he also should not hit a peer on the bus.
Failure to generalize is one of the difficulties in treatment for Asperger’s Disorder children. What they learn in therapy often does not generalize. While they may become very skilled at using their communication skills in family therapy, when they get home, it is as if they never even heard of communication skills. Some parents have reported that their Asperger’s Disorder children have told them, “Those skills are only for when we are in therapy, not for when we are home!”