Thursday, May 5, 2016

Peer Modeling

I am a firm believer that children on the autism spectrum should not be denied access to typically developing peers. I believe in this statement so much, that I had my little guy enrolled in both a regular preschool and a developmental preschool when he was three and four years old. Thankfully, the regular preschool was absolutely amazing and they did everything in their power to accommodate my son. My son benefited from his interactions with his peers in the regular preschool. My son ended up picking up additional behaviors while enrolled at the developmental preschool. Don't get me wrong, my son needed the the developmental preschool. It definitely had its benefits, but he did not get the daily interactions that he so desperately needed.

My little guy has had an amazing first year of kindergarten. He has had his days, but for the most part he has done exceedingly well. I really believe that he has benefited from complete access to the general education environment. He has had to have accommodations put into place, but with these added supports he has really done a great job this year. In my heart, I believe that the daily peer modeling has been a huge contributor to his success.

With all of this being said, the spectrum his extremely vast. Full day inclusion may not work for every child, but I still believe that every kiddo should be given as many opportunities to be included with typically developing peers as seemingly possible. This may look different for each child. Examples include: play dates, trips to the YMCA, social skills groups, sibling play, ect, ect... I know that it can often seem easier to just avoid social situations due to the possibility of a meltdown. I've been there! I remember taking my little guy to the YMCA in the early years. I would end up leaving there with sweat dripping down my face looking like I had just ran a full marathon. I remember giving my spill to each instructor before enrolling my kiddo in classes at the Y. I remember explaining why my kiddo barely spoke and explaining his melt downs to parents. It was hard, very hard, but I am a firm believer that my kiddo needed to experience as much as possible at an early age. My theory was that it would be much easier to face these battles with a three year old rather than a sixteen year old.

With all of this being said, it wasn't always easy. Sometimes it still isn't easy... We just signed my son up for soccer. My husband had to give his speech to the coach after my little guy had a meltdown when the team didn't vote to name the soccer team, "The red Koopa Troopers." The coach was extremely understanding and thankfully extremely accommodating. My little guy has thankfully done better at each subsequent soccer practice. He is learning sportsmanship and that not everything can go his way. Unfortunately, this is not how the world works. I love my little guy to the moon and back. It hasn't always been easy, but thankfully watching my little guys progress has made everything easier!

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