Volume 41 | Issue 2 | Summer 2015 | Furthering TASH's Bold Mission: Town Hall Recommendations for the Future
Peer supports… what moves into your thoughts when you hear those words? Do you see a delightful scene, where one student is engaging with another, offering supportive and encouraging ideas, and perhaps in the dividing line of beginning and ending that time, sharing some fun and creative laughs?
Or, do you see a student sitting at a desk being “spoken to” but not really “speaking with” the student who is to be a “peer?” It may be seen as one being an enormous helper, and filling the time they were asked to do, and too uncomfortable to say “no thanks” to the request made, probably by a teacher or high staff member. These are very different scenes and I have experienced both.
To me, why ask, and then assume, a student wants to be helpful? Good educators need to figure this out; it surely isn’t rocket science. I’m assuming as an educator, one must be somewhat skilled in understanding body language. They seem to be able to determine if the answer to “is your homework completed?” with ease. Why is it then that the selection of a peer to work with would not be an easy on-site accomplishment? It’s important to select someone who seems unafraid and who is willing to navigate the waters of personal discovery that people like me are, in truth, pretty cool guys.
Of course, there is some time in learning that there is strength in showing who you are, but if connected to a peer with the right stuff, it’s confidence- filling, in the soul.
If you are someone who uses supported typing and a young man, as I am, and if the peer support is a lovely young woman, there fundamentally develops the connecting sense of how it feels to have someone in that personal space that people are always talking to me about (“Remember personal space, Jamie!”). That surely can divert attention and focus in the beginning, but it’s a wonderful feeling in the balance of some of the harder things about autism. I only wish that someone had understood how cool this was and the wonderful sense of being opened to many school possibilities with a student in my own class.
The focus when inclusive education is discussed is the levelling of class instruction and expectation; however it’s not all about discourse that makes one feel a true part of the whole. Of course, that is important, but a whole is made from parts and doing peer support with careful and thoughtful planning can sure make a student develop self-confidence and the strength to move forward when those days of struggle step in at times.
- Introduction, by Barbara Trader
- TASH Inclusive Education Town Hall: Access to Communication and High Quality Instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment, by Julia M. White, Jennifer Kurth, Jessica McCord, and Jenny Stonemeier
- Balancing Rules and Regulations with Individualized Supports: Insights from the 2014 TASH Conference Town Hall Session on Community Living, by Michael Kendrick
- TASH 2014 Employment Town Hall: Pressure Points and Opportunities for How We Move from 15% to 70% Employment Participation, by John Butterworth, David Mank, Ruby Moore, and Cherissa Alldredge
- Preparing Students with Significant Disabilities to Transition to College and Careers: Insights from the 2014 TASH Conference Town Hall Meeting, by Mary Morningstar and Diane Ryndak