A common problem with young children on the autistic spectrum is finding ways to help them gain the social experience they will need as they continue in the social and academic world. Because language and innate social skills are typically areas of difficulty for children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs), early social interactions are often difficult or non-existent. Since other children may not fully understand the disorder, they may react negatively when interacting with a child with an ASD, creating or reinforcing negative feelings about peer interactions for the child on the autistic spectrum.
One approach to helping facilitate social development for children with ASDs, is peer-mediated therapy. This means training typically developing peers to interact with children with ASDs in a positive way, encouraging communication and social interaction. Research has shown that there may be strong benefits to this approach, helping children with ASDs have successful social interactions at an early age and fostering friendships with peers. Even very young children have shown success with this approach; peer-based intervention has been used successfully with preschool-aged children.
How exactly does the approach work? A speech-language pathologist and classroom teacher would typically work together to select typically developing children in the classroom who they feel would be a good match for the program. If these children and their parents are interested, the child would be educated about ASDs and given simple strategies to help interact with their peers by their classroom teacher or the speech therapist. At the preschool age, this may be something as simple as “Stay-Play-Talk”. This strategy would guide the child to stay near the child on the autistic spectrum, play alongside them, going along with their activity or suggesting others, and talk about what they are doing.
Want to learn more about peer-mediated therapy? Check out this recent article in the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s monthly newsletter: http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2012/120117/Come-Play-With-Me.htm
If you or someone you love has a problem with speech, language, or communication, contact Speech Associates of NY today for an evaluation. One of our trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help you on the road to better speech and communication. Call us at 917-841-2965 or visit us on the web: www.speechassociatesofny.com