Peer cooperation is a necessity when implementing classroom inclusion of students with autism. It is important to create an environment for students on the spectrum to thrive in the classroom.
Inclusion is a beautiful idea wrapped up in the promise of making the lives of those with and around ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, better. But ideas are just that, beautiful concepts without the proper assessment of possible outcomes. The dark side of inclusion can range from bullying to the child suffering from ASD feeling isolated from their peers. So why do we not apply the ramifications of what could happen when trying to cement the idea into reality?
The necessity of peer mediation when trying to implement inclusive classroom programs directly correlates with the desired experience of everyone involved. One where the child on the spectrum feels included and safe in their environment and the peer learns how to approach a child on the spectrum. The development of social skills on both student’s parts will help them later in life when dealing with differences in society. So ideally inclusion is a win-win situation when implemented properly into a classroom.
The difficulties that can arise with inclusion when the peers are not cooperative bring me back to middle school when a classmate of mine had Asperger Syndrome. It was evident to me that he was on the spectrum, having been around autism most of my life, so adjusting my routine and the way I behaved in class became second nature. But a few of my peers, with their lack of knowledge on the disorder or empathy to his triggers, treated him differently by bullying him and calling him weird. I tried my best to make my classmates understand him and as time went by I remember him developing the ability to pick up on social cues and defend himself. However, this was the case for someone low on the spectrum with verbal skills.
So it raises the question of what would happen if a non-verbal child, high on the spectrum, was exposed to a similar environment. When inclusion is applied to a classroom setting without peer cooperation there is a possibility of the child with ASD either…
1. Feeling isolated and alone
2. Bullied and ostracized
3. Finding it difficult to adapt to their environment and/or communicating with peers.
In order to properly effect a safe classroom environment and de-stigmatize Autism in the process, a peer must be fully able and willing to understand their classmate and their triggers. Thus, minimizing the possibility of bullying and increasing the development of sociability between students. When focused too heavily on the teacher’s perspective, programs often fail both their students and the great outcomes that can be brought through inclusion.
It is a necessity and a gift if the instructor is knowledgeable about ASD and the triggers that can arise, a more important element which is often skipped over is the accommodation of the peer. If you place a child with ASD in a classroom, feelings of loneliness and even bullying can occur on a large scale. However, with the effective use of peer mediation, these concerns can be dealt with in a way both beneficial to the student with ASD and the student who now understands and knows how to navigate the emotions of someone on the spectrum.
Embrace Autism is devoted to building a community that fosters inclusivity for those on the autism spectrum. We would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or contact us for more help with blog development.