Setting a Good Example

I work in an autism classroom with children grades 3-5. Most of our students are in our room for the whole day, but we are always working toward them being able to go into general education classes for some periods of time during the day. One of our students has higher functioning autism than the others. This student is able spend a lot of his day in a 3rd grade general education class. He always has me, or another teaching assistant with him to prompt him or help him with things as needed. He also goes to specials with other 3rd graders, such as art, gym, music, etc. Unfortunately while going to these classes with him, I have noticed that his fellow students are not overly friendly to him. He does exhibit stimming behaviors, such as repeating names or phrases, and that bothers some of the students. When told to partner up in gym a few weeks ago, no one wanted to be his partner. I heard another student call him “weird” when he was standing alone without a partner and was so frustrated until another female student came up to him and asked to be his partner. After that, students were interacting with him more and more. Just last week, he was invited (and went!) to a fellow students halloween party at their house. He was so happy and that girl has no idea the impact she had on his day, and possibly even the rest of his school year.

Students follow example from each other their attitudes es and behaviors are mirrored constantly. Many other students do not have patience with the boy I am mentioning, but watching how helpful and patient the girl was to him gave me so much hope that others will see this interaction and want to be more friendly with him.


  1. This is beautiful to hear about. I think the concept of spreading actions and taking initiatives is one that is often overlooked. We see it everyday, people isolate certain groups until one person who is seen as important or normal in this case ventures out and explores the other groups. Then the behavior seems “okay”. I would say this same concept could be applied in reverse to negative behaviors. We touched on this briefly in earlier lessons, learned negative traits occur when people are exposed to them normally in a group setting. They see the behavior has no consequences thus they mimic it. In your situation the other children seen that this behavior of interacting with the “weird” kid was acceptable. He then went from being different to being the same. We as adults do this as well, we observe and then take action , why and when we choose to take action depends on the situation. What prompts the initiator to take the action when no one else does? Is it compassion, extrovert tendencies , or another psychological response ?

  2. What a wonderful story! I, too, work with children with autism spectrum disorder. I see everyday how difficult it is for these kids to make and maintain friendships. One of my clients is a boy with low-functioning ASD (I’ll refer to him as Chris). He is non-verbal which presents an even bigger challenge for him to make friends and enjoy social situations with others. He has recently started using an electronic assistive communication device. He has become proficient in using it. However, other students can very impatient with this type of communication because it does take more time and focus on the part of the student “receiving” the communication. Many students avoid engaging with Chris because of this added responsibility. There is one student, however, that is very intrigued by the assistive device and has since become an advocate for other students to engage with Chris, encouraging them to be patient and creating an interest in the actual device itself. He certainly is setting a good example!!

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