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Working with Peers

It is vital to work with all students to build a school culture which is inclusive and values all students. Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may require support to develop social skills and pro-social behaviour. However, it is deeply unfair to place all responsibility on the student with ASD when it comes to social participation.

It is important to work with the peer group to develop a culture of inclusion - this is of the benefit to all students. Teachers communicate with their students about diversity on two levels –


Teachers are usually excellent at role modelling respectful and inclusive behaviour for students. However, teachers are sometimes unsure of how to proceed when teaching students about disability, especially when there is a student with a disability in the class.


Classmates may ask their teacher about differences that they notice in a student with ASD, or may react negatively to unexpected behaviour. It is not appropriate to disclose the student’s diagnosis to other students – this is a breach of privacy. However, teachers can discuss with the class the fact that all students are different and have different support needs. Such a discussion could include mention that:

  • there are many forms of difference – including physical differences, cultural differences, difference in preferred activities, different thinking styles, communication styles and different personalities
  • our differences are part of what makes us unique and are to be celebrated
  • everyone needs help sometimes, but the things we need help with will differ according to our needs
  • we expect our classmates to be supportive when we need help ourselves (with schoolwork, shoelaces or social/emotional situations) and we should extend the same understanding to others

The teacher may seek the permission of the student’s parents - and the student - to make a disclosure about their diagnosis of ASD. While there are certainly benefits to sharing this information (including an increased level of understanding from peers) such a discussion would need to be managed carefully and sensitively. It would ideally include an appropriate amount of information about ASD and a discussion of different ways of thinking about difference (contrasting a deficit model with a social model of disability).


Whether or not a disclosure does occur, it is strongly recommended that teachers work with peers to support their skills and willingness to:

  • include the student with ASD socially,
  • communicate well with the student,
  • be supportive of the student with ASD, and
  • develop a culture of inclusion.