A Tool You Can’t Ignore for Children with Autism: Peer Awareness!
School is starting soon for many and has already started for some! It’s time to start thinking about those new teachers, that new building and those new friends!
You want your child or student with autism to have a great start, so how can you help ensure this happens?
Two words. Peer Awareness!!!
What is Peer Awareness? It’s basically an educational session that you do for your child/student’s peers to inform them about the disability and teach them what they can do to help.
Why do we do this?
- To share and provide information. Somebody once said that children are great observers but poor interpreters. We need to help interpret what they are seeing so that they can learn patience, compassion and understanding.
- To level the playing field
- To help prevent teasing and bullying. When there is a lack of education and guidance there is a chance for teasing and bullying
Who can we do this for?
- Single classroom peers
- Whole grade level peers
- Specific peer groups like: Scouts, church groups, sports teams, co-workers
- Neighborhood children
- Extended family members
How often should we do this?
- Only once if that’s all that’s necessary. For example, extended family may only need one session.
- Every year if your child changes schools, grade levels, peer groups.
- Whenever questions or problems occur.
Avoid using the terms disability or handicap. Use “challenged” instead!
You may or may not want the child who has the disability to be part of the presentation. Only you can decide what’s best for each particular child.
Family members may or may not want to be part of the presentation
Always highlight the positive qualities of your child.
Always get permission from the family/school. For example, if the family has not yet told their child that he/she has autism, the peer awareness session may just focus on challenges, positive qualities, patience and acceptance rather than a discussion about what autism is.
So the first thing you want to do is gather both challenges and strengths of your child/student and then decide what books, activities and tools you can use to make your points.
Take a look at the video and see suggestions for four different age groups!
If you would like to see examples of letters to both parents and teachers, take a look on the Resource page compliments of Erin Diefendorf and Kristie Lofland!
Try a peer awareness and see if it helps make things go a bit smoother for your chlld/student’s new school year!