ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Friday, July 14, 2006: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
553 A-B
#1897- Facilitating Friendships Between Children With ASD And Their Peers
This session will provide teachers and families with an overview of the Integrated Play Groups Model, which supports children with autism in mutually enjoyed play experiences with typical peers. This session will also include fun demonstrations of autism awareness activities that can be used to educate typical peers about autism. The end of this session will include a special treat...12-year-old friends Will and Jamie will be available to discuss their friendship.

Presenters:Tara Tuchel, M.S., CCC-SLP, Hudson School District, Autism Specialist - Tara Tuchel is a speech/language pathologist and autism specialist who runs an elementary level autism program in Hudson, Wisconsin. Her many accomplishments as a qualified play guide are featured in Pamela Wolfberg's book, Peer Play and the Autsim Spectrum (2003-Autism Asperger Publishing Company). She has presented at both the state and national level on peer play and the autism spectrum. Recently, Tara co-authored her first book with 12-year-old Jamie Lowell. The book is titled, My Best Friend Will (2005-Autism Asperger Publishing Company), and chronicles a friendship between Jamie and her friend Will, who has autism.

Jamie Lowell, Hudson School District, Student - Jamie Lowell is a sixth grader at Hudson Middle School. She enjoys being in Integrated Play Groups, swimming and playing with her friend Will. She also likes going to movies, going to the mall and making bracelets. She has been friends with Will since kindergarten.

William Roberts, Hudson School District, Student - Will Roberts is a sixth grader in Hudson School District. Will has an autism spectrum disorder, and has overcome many personal obstacles that continue to amaze his family, friends and teachers. Will likes to make appliances out of cardboard boxes, play with his friend Jamie, loves the rides at Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America and likes to drive his golf cart.

The difficulties that children with autism spectrum disorders experience with peer play and socialization can cause both teachers and parents to wonder how they can help their children and students learn these important friendship skills. Through much research, Pamela Wolfberg, Ph.D., has developed a practical model to enhance peer play in children with autism spectrum disorders. Integrated Play Groups are designed to support children of diverse ages and abilities on the autism spectrum (novice players) in mutually enjoyed play experiences with typical peers and siblings (expert players). Small groups of children regularly play together under the guidance of a qualified adult facilitator (play guide) within home, school and community settings. As a Master Play Guide, I have facilitated Integrated Play Groups with over seventy elementary age school children (novice and expert players) over the past 7 years.

There are many benefits to Integrated Play Groups. The novice players benefit in the areas of social interaction, communication, language, representational play and related symbolic activity (writing and drawing). The expert players benefit by showing greater self-esteem, awareness, empathy and acceptance for individual differences. Both novice and expert players form mutual friendships while having fun together.

This session will briefly address the key features of the Integrated Play Groups Model, before moving into video examples of children in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, participating in Integrated Play Groups in the public school setting. I will also share numerous visual supports that I have created to facilitate play and social understanding for my groups. You will see how the IPG Model can be successfully implemented with children anywhere on the autism spectrum. Several examples of how play sessions have been tailored to the child with autism's unique interests and abilities will be shared. In addition, I will discuss several tips for people that would like to get IPG's up and running. These are things that I have learned over the past seven years, which will be helpful for those who are just beginning their IPG adventure. In this session you will also hear the amazing story of how two children (one neuro-typical and one with autism) forged a friendship that will warm your heart. The two children are featured in the new book, My Best Friend Will and will be available to discuss how their frienship and their book came to be at the end of this session.

This session will also go into more detail (than past IPG sessions) regarding how to facilitate exciting and fun autism awareness presentations for typical peers. This is an extremely important part of training the expert players, as well as the entire regular education classroom (and often times the regular education teacher too!). The focus is on teaching the peer group to be more accepting, responsive and inclusive of children who relate and play in different ways. Through video clips, participant will see how these activities are carried out in a real classroom setting.

See more of The ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)