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Sofia Correia A...

Make peer-to-peer support and inclusion legendary at your school

Find out how personalised inclusion strategies and peer-to-peer support can help pupils with autism overcome barriers they may face in the classroom.

Focusing on needs

In order to have an effective inclusive environment, strategies to help children with autism communicate their wants and needs should be developed.

Language, communication and social interaction style must be adapted as necessary by teaching and support staff.

Working as a teaching assistant of pupils with special education needs, the focus is on any need that might arise, considering individual interests and preferences, whilst trying to act at the earliest stages and plan for different possibilities in advance.

The target is to always maximize the pupil’s welfare, with the provided resources. Furthermore, evidence shows that learning with and through peers enables an effective intervention to those with autism. (Morewood, Humphrey & Symes, 2011)

When it comes to generalising strategies for all individuals, there is only so much we can do:

'All children with autism have impairment in social and emotional understanding, communication, and flexibility of thinking and behaviour. However, each child is unique and will present differently due to differing presenting features…' (Guldberg, 2010)

Case study: ear defenders

The other day, John* brought ear defenders to school for the first time. Unlike his Year 7 colleague Richard*, John seemed confused about its use:

'In which lessons shall I put them on? And when? Can I lend it to my friends? How should I handle them? Where do I put them once the lesson is finished?'

After all, it was something new to the class and, as on most occasions, new equals fun, hence distraction set in the classroom.

Richard, on the other hand, is very used to having ear defenders. If someone should instruct John about the correct use of ear defenders in school, that person should be Richard, I thought.

Visual supports

During the afternoon registration that day, the two boys sat together under the warm sun. The three of us reached the conclusion that, even though they both needed ear defenders, the occasions in which they did differed:

  • Richard needs them when someone is being told off nor there is increased noise in the classroom.
  • John will use them when the class is being naughty so he doesn’t get distracted.

We also came up with the idea of having a timetable with yellow dots, which would represent the lessons John was more likely to need the ear defenders.

Providing visual support increases predictability and facilitates transitions for students with autism (Crosland & Dunlap, 2012).

As from an emotional regulation and peer tutoring / group support point of view, I am pleased to have had Richard with me because I couldn't have done it better myself.

In fact, using Richard’s own day-to-day scale of assessment, it was a 'legendary' moment.

*real names were changed

More on SEND inclusion


Crosland, K. and Dunlap, G. (2012). Effective Strategies for the Inclusion of Children with Autism in General Classrooms. Behaviour Modification, 36(3), p. 251-269.

Guldberg, K. (2010). Educating Children on the Autism Spectrum: Preconditions for Inclusion and Notions of “Best Autism Practice” in the Early Years. British Journal of Special Education, 37(4), p. 168-174.

Morewood, G. D, Humphrey, N. & Symes, W. (2011) Mainstreaming autism: making it work. Good Autism Practice Journal 02.12.11, 62-68.


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