Today I was invited to speak with a group of 80 high school students.

School hasn't even started, and yet there they all were. They had volunteered to come in to school and learn about how to be a peer support. As part of their training, I was invited to speak for an hour about how to support fellow students with autism. I so remember being that age and signing up to be a peer tutor (as we called it in the USA) myself. I remember wishing someone could have give us some practical advice and guidance.

At the end of the hour, I gave each table group a piece of paper and challenged them to list 5 things they could do to be supportive of a fellow student with autism. Wow! They really synthesised the information.

Here is what they wrote:

  • Write things down / Live subtitles / Write down what you are saying /Write down instructions for clarity
  • Accommodate different learning styles / Check to see if they understand
  • Give them the steps (don’t make them guess) / repeat instruction ( exactly) if needed
  • Break things down into steps / break things down
  • Give them task exemplars / offer personal examples
  • Understand that they may need a certain type of communication
  • Make/give them the most comfortable environment / be aware of physical changes in environment / provide space / reduce noise
  • Pay attention to their triggers / recognise triggers
  • Remember there can be different interpretations – be open minded
  • Verbal explanations, share your thinking aloud
  • Make the invisible, visible
  • State the obvious / Make things clear
  • Be straight up – don’t avoid specific areas or topics
  • Communicate, clear communication, clarify
  • Be direct and honest
  • Raw honesty and be specific / Be honest – they appreciate that
  • Report incidents to teacher and make sure the student with autism is alright
  • Highlight key points / highlight important points
  • Make things visual / use visual aids / use gestures /provide visual cues / use pictures
  • Freeze time by making things visual
  • Keep in mind how sensitive and alert they might be
  • Give options to choose from
  • Be patient
  • Keep promises / don’t lie / careful phrasing

I can't even begin to say how proud I was to see their answers. I am so excited about how they will take this information and apply it to their interactions with classmates, co-workers, friends, family members, and maybe even spouses in the future.

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