Peer Mentors Help Kids With Autism Learn Social Graces

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[Source: The Belleville News Democrat via Disability Scoop]

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At first look, it’s hard to tell who in the peer mentoring program has autism and who is in regular education at Belleville’s Westhaven Elementary school.

But then a balloon pops, and a kindergartner with autism shrieks — as would many regular education kindergartners — and a sixth-grader claps his hands over his ears and keeps them there.

“Did you hear that POP?” he excitedly asked a few minutes later. “Did you hear POP?”

James Moton, 11, was soon calm on a recent morning, alternately appearing either bored or highly engaged when talking about outer space or the show “How it’s Made” with his peer mentor, William Hein.

James and William are part of the Belleville District 118 program that pairs students in regular education with students on the autism spectrum. The students with autism are gently coached in social skills, and the mentors like William get to exercise their empathy as well as educate others about the disorder.

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