Ways that peer support can help children with disability socialise in the classroom
Peer support is crucial for children with disabilities for several reasons like peer support helps integrate children with disabilities into social settings, reducing isolation and encouraging a sense of belonging among their peers. Interacting with peers allows children with disabilities to improve social skills, communication, and problem-solving abilities in real-life situations. They also provide positive role models for appropriate social behaviours, communication styles, and interactions, which children with disabilities can observe and learn from.
When they offer encouragement, acceptance, and praise, it boosts the self-esteem and self-confidence of children with disabilities which encourages them to participate more actively, also interactions with peers occur in the context of daily activities that allow children with disabilities to learn social skills in a natural and relevant manner. Both children with disabilities and their peers can learn from one another, gaining insights into different perspectives and experiences.
Positive interactions with peers help dispel misconceptions and biases about disabilities which help in promoting understanding and empathy among all students. Peer friendships provide emotional support that offers a safe space where children with disabilities can share their thoughts and feelings. Interacting with peers encourages children with disabilities to practice communication, use different communication tools, and adapt their communication styles.
Developing social skills and friendships during childhood prepares children with disabilities for better social integration and relationships as they grow older and peer support also helps to equip children with disabilities to learn essential life skills for adulthood.
Peers can assist children with disabilities in various ways to enhance their socialization in the classroom:
1. Inclusive education – Peers can engage in group activities that involve all students regardless of abilities to encourage a sense of belongingness and cultivates collaboration.
2. Peer Modelling: Peers can teach age appropriate social behaviours, communication skills, and interactions, that can provide children with disabilities with concrete examples to learn from. They can demonstrate how to initiate conversations, share, take turns, and respond empathetically.
3. Supportive Partners: Assigning peer buddies or partners can provide targeted assistance and encouragement during classroom activities, helping children with disabilities participate more comfortably.
4. Joint Projects: Collaborative projects encourage interaction and teamwork, allowing children with disabilities to contribute their strengths while learning from their peers.
5. Structured Social Skills Training: Peers can participate in structured social skills lessons, practicing specific interactions and behaviours that support the social growth of children with disabilities.
6. Shared Interests: Encouraging shared interests or hobbies can naturally bring children together and facilitate conversations and connections.
7. Positive Reinforcement: Peers can offer positive feedback and reinforcement, boosting the confidence and self-esteem of children with disabilities. They can use positive feedback and rewards to reinforce desirable social behaviours and interactions exhibited by the special children.
8. Flexible Communication: Encouraging open and patient communication helps peers understand the unique communication styles of their classmates with disabilities.
9. Problem Solving Together: Collaborative problem-solving tasks help children with disabilities learn how to work through challenges while receiving support and input from their peers.
10. Inclusive Games and Activities: Peers can include special children in games and activities that are enjoyable and accessible, fostering a sense of belonging and shared experiences.
By promoting interaction, understanding, and shared experiences, peers contribute significantly to the social development of children with disabilities in the classroom.
Author Sradhanjali Dasgupta
Consultant Psychologist, Speaker , Learning Developmental Coach, Teacher and trainer Miss. Sradhanjali Dasgupta has been extensively working in the field of Counselling and education for the past few years in several Clinics, Hospitals, NGOs and educational sectors. She also contributes her writings and blogs in various newspapers, magazines and e- magazines Her training and workshops are both for the corporate as well as for the educational sector and are geared up for learning and development,upgradation and capacity building. She have actively taken part in many debates