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.