Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Peer Interaction May Provide A Learning Opportunity For Autistic children

The numbers are startling: New research now indicates that that 1 in 110 children in the United has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). "While researchers seek to assess the risk factors and better identify potential causes, there is an urgent need to provide opportunities for children and adults with autism to live their best lives," says Michelle Rowe, Ph.D., executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and professor of Health Services at Saint Joseph's University.

Some of the most valuable learning experiences, she maintains, are not traditionally provided by many school districts. "Learning skills such as saying 'hello, approaching others, making eye contact and initiating social interactions - and how to respond to others who do those things - are often overlooked in the classroom." In the Kinney Center's recently launched after-school program, children ages three and up acquire the building blocks of these social skills in a fun, supportive environment.

"Neurotypical children easily learn these skills in preschool and on the elementary school playground. Children with autism can also learn them, but they need more help and coaching in doing so," notes Rowe.

Interacting with age-equivalent peers who do not have autism in a structured setting also gives those with autism a learning opportunity: "Picking up subtle nuances such as eye contact and facial expressions—these are critical skills in developing good relationships with friends," she adds.

The Kinney Center's summer program, Camp Kinney, will adopt this inclusive model, offering two- to five-week programs for both children with autism and neurotypical youngsters. "They will learn from each other, playing games and sports together, doing art together, making and eating lunch together, singing together and laughing together. And they'll have lots of fun doing it.

"Connecting with others doesn't come naturally to those with autism. Our goal is to help them acquire the skills to make the connections that will enrich their lives."

Source: Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support

Posted by Lew Hui Teng, T3

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