Students ages four and up may volunteer to participate in social skills groups as neurotypical peers. We have found that having typical peers, (children through young adults of about the same age as clients), sitting in as members of the friendship groups is very beneficial to clients’ progress. Peers can role model social skills, as well as give a perspective of the “typical” child, his/her behaviors, reactions, answers, etc. Typical peers should be personable and outgoing.
The social skills groups, while providing essential skills for clients, are also very beneficial to all individuals, including the typical peers who serve in them. We have had parents of typical peers comment on what a difference being in these groups made for their child’s success in school and with friends. One parent thanked us for the “gift” of the social skills therapy group because of the difference it made to her child. Even if a child doesn’t need any social skills help, the boost to self esteem being a typical peer brings can be fun!
As a side note, while parents generally know who our typical peers are, our clients usually do not. They will see children serving as typical peers as new friends at West Metro Learning Connections, and that seems to be best from a self esteem point of view. Still, the fact that your children work/volunteer at WMLC and do not have a disability is not a secret or something we work to hide…it’s just not something we make a point of mentioning.
Regarding pay, we have done this a variety of ways:
- Typical peers with no ASD diagnosis, can participate in the social skills groups at no charge to them and also receiving no payment, but gaining benefit from the group, while providing a service to peers. This determination of participation is made by WMLC with parental input and is contingent upon a child’s being able to serve as a role model and not requiring too much instruction and intervention him/herself and not detracting from clients’ progress in any way.
- Some parents have simply chosen to decline pay, even though their child has no social skills needs whatsoever and is overwhelmingly successful in enriching clients’ lives and enhancing their progress. In this case, we like to give a small thank you gift at the end of the session.
- Some typical peers have used their service at West Metro Learning Connections to meet community service requirements of their high school classes and their confirmation or other religious classes. In this case, we provide a letter documenting the service.
- Typical peers can be employees on payroll after meeting the following requirements:
- Age ten or older
- Completed one term (eight weeks) at WMLC as a volunteer
- Completed WMLC peer training
- Approved application with a WMLC teacher’s recommendation
We start typical peers at the minimum wage, which is $8.00 an hour.
We consider the payment option your choice entirely. We present the options just so you know. We do have to reserve the right to discontinue typical peers’ participation if the situation interferes in any way with clients’ progress. We also generally discourage siblings from being in a group or activity with their own family member.
If your child is interested in being a peer role model, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.