Identify & Implement Activities to Develop Peer Relationships
IDENTIFY & IMPLEMENT ACTIVITIES TO DEVELOP PEER RELATIONSHIPS
DEVELOPING PEER RELATIONSHIPS
In developing peer relationships, three areas may be identified:
1. Ability awareness involves recognizing that individuals with disabilities are people first with unique gifts, talents, and abilities. Thus, when a child is being included it is important to present him/her as a person who is more alike classmates than different. This can be accomplished by:
2. Developing peer connections/friendships involves bringing students together through structured activities that promote social interaction:
3. Peer collaboration for learning involves including students as part of instruction through activities such as:
During the early childhood and primary years it is usually possible to allow budding relationships to develop on their own with the use of the informal activities listed above. As the teachers in these grades introduce students to each other and the school community, a student with disabilities will usually connect with others with minimal facilitation.
However, as students reach the third and fourth grade relationships are often established and students may have questions about differences. It may be difficult for a new student to join a classroom or school community, and if that student has a disability which is not familiar to others; initial interactions may be difficult. In order to facilitate interaction a formalized circle may be developed.
An adult facilitator is necessary to initiate the process and keep the group organized and focused. An initial meeting is held with the student's class, homeroom, lunch group, or any other group that the student interacts with on a regular basis. The peer group is invited to participate in an exercise to look at the circles of friends in their own lives. The facilitator gives each student a sheet of paper with four concentric circles or asks them to draw the circles on a sheet of paper.
Next, the facilitator models and describes the following steps as the peers fill in their own circles:
After circles are completed, the facilitator asks the peers to look at their circles and to notice the different relationships in their lives. Then, the facilitator shows the peers an example of the circles for a student with a disability that often contains few, if any, friends and acquaintances. The facilitator asks them what they think about this circle and how they might feel if their circles were empty of friends and acquaintances. The circles are a powerful representation of the need to help a person connect with others.
Now, the facilitator asks the peers to problem solve: "How can we help this person connect with others?" "What would you want other people to do for you if you were the 'new kid' at a school?"
At the end of this first meeting the facilitator suggests that the group meet again to see how some of the things they suggested are working and/or to work on their ideas together. The facilitator may then broaden the group's mission by saying that others may be having difficulty with relationships among peers and asking how this group could be a support for all. Thus, the group's focus could move beyond the student with disabilities while still supporting him/her.