Students at Longmont Estates Elementary School are making a difference by enhancing social interaction, and promoting communication skills through their Peer Mentorship program. This unique initiative brings students together from the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and General Education programs, creating opportunities for learning and growth.
Counselor Erin Wise explains, “We believe fostering empathy and compassion among the peer mentors is crucial. By engaging with and understanding their peers with autism, our students can contribute to a more inclusive and positive school culture. This not only benefits the children directly involved but has a ripple effect on the entire school community.”
Peer mentors participate in weekly lessons with their counselor where they incorporate lessons from Ellen Sabin’s book, “The Autism Acceptance Book.” This leads to their small group discussions and provides learning opportunities for all students, allowing them to understand and support their peers better. For example, in September and October, student mentors created glitter mindfulness jars and ninja stress balls for the mentees. “I learned a lot about autism,” shared fourth grader Jeremiah Allen. “I have had a great time being a mentor.” Currently, 16 students are serving as Peer Mentors, and another 16 will join later in the year – this way, more students get to experience the program.
Being part of the Peer Mentorship Program helps students learn new skills, understand each other better, and it encourages students to care about different perspectives and experiences by learning how to communicate effectively and adjust to different styles of communication. For fifth grader Grian Lee, the program has helped her “Understand and support my peers with autism by showing me that they can learn and do things just like everyone else – sometimes even better! The program is really fun and can help inspire other students to be leaders.”
The program has already shown positive results with communication and friendships growing stronger among all students. Wise adds, “We aspire to develop life skills in both the mentors and mentees.” Peer mentors have the opportunity to cultivate leadership and a sense of responsibility. As for the mentees, the program enhances their social and communication skills in a supportive and structured setting.
Through crafting activities and collaborative efforts, students are not only learning together but also forming meaningful connections that go beyond their differences. “This program has shown me that not everyone is the same,” shared fifth grader Taytum Bushlack. “Our mentees like to work together, they like to do activities, and most importantly, they like to have fun together.”