Don't worry. I'm not going to make you lie on the couch of psychoanalysis for this blog posting. But I do want you to reflect for a moment. Depending on how old you are, I'm going to require you blow some dust off the box of memories in your brain and open up to the cards that hold your elementary school experiences. What are you thinking about? The smell of that new box of crayons? The exultation of finally tying your shoes by yourself? The way Tommy pulled that girl's hair at recess? The time you forgot to zip your pants after returning from the bathroom and having a classmate point out your mistake in a not-so-discreet way?
I'm guessing not many of you went right to the math lesson card. Or the correct sentence structure page. Because the experiences that stick with us have some sensory and/or social-emotional basis. I marvel at teachers and administrators who have such tunnel vision for academic learning that they deliberately carve away character-building curricular elements. For these individuals, teaching to the tests is all-consuming. There is no room for humanity. This makes me sad.
If we don't teach social-emotional skills with the same fervor we teach academics, we risk releasing to the community young adults who can complete a task without regard for how to manage themselves in a sphere of reference to their environment. If you need an evidence basis for the importance of social-emotional learning, check out CASEL.
Our students with autism are entitled to the same benefits of social-emotional learning. Many prioritized lists by educational autism experts show the learning of new academic skills below elements like effective communication, self-regulation (from a sensory and emotional standpoint), and social understanding. Building skills and practice of healthy social-emotional behaviors into an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are important practices if we want good life-long outcomes.
At Good Friend, Inc., we believe that peer sensitivity training and peer mentors are crucial aspects of a classroom inclusive of a child with autism. Give us an opportunity to show you why!