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Erin Gauthier Maureen Ziegler, Ed.S
Elementary Classroom Teacher - Allegan AESA Intervention Specialist - START Project

Afternoon Session ~

" Beyond Lunch and Recess - Elementary Peer to Peer Support Programs"

This module will provide a systems approach to establishing a peer to peer support programs to increase opportunities for students with ASD to access general education settings and curriculum at the elementary level. Peers model typical academic and social behavior in educational environments throughout the school day and provide support for students with ASD to promote independence and socialization. The specific steps for developing an elementary peer to peer program beyond lunch and recess will be presented. These steps include: Finding same and cross aged peers, organizing same and cross aged peers and training same and cross aged peers. Pictures and video of an established elementary peer to peer support program will be utilized throughout the presentation.

Learning Objectives:

After attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the difference between same and cross aged peer to peer support students and how the difference may impact scheduling of the peer to peer supports for individual students with ASD.
  • identify the key components for finding, training and maintaining peer to peer supports at the elementary level.
  • demonstrate insight into the elementary school building schedule and how the schedule impacts the development and implementation of peer to peer support programs at the elementary level.

About the Presenters ~

Erin Gauthier
This is my third year teaching, second year teaching students on the spectrum. My first year, I taught teenage girls with Cerebral Palsy in Long Island. After my first year in New York, I knew it was too far away from home. My husband and I moved back to the Grand Rapids area to be closer to friends and family. My second year teaching was with Allegan Area Educational Service Agency in a self contained Autism classroom in a center based program. After going through many of the START trainings, I suggested that my classroom should move out of the center based program, which is where I am now. My third year teaching is still working with students on the spectrum, but in a local district and getting a Peer to Peer/LINKs program set up to integrate our students and have positive role models.

Katy Neumann
Katy received her Bachelor's Degree from Albion College. She also holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Western Michigan University and an Elementary and Secondary School Administrator Certificate from Grand Valley State University. Katy is finishing her 4th year as the Principal of Robert D. Brandon Elementary School which is part of Martin Public Schools where a Peer to Peer/LINK program is being established to support students with ASD. Prior to becoming principal, she was employed by the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency where she spent 5 years teaching preschool for the Great Start Readiness Program. She also has 8 years of experience teaching 1st and 2nd grade for Albion Public Schools.

Amy Silsbe
Amy is the Specialized Instruction Service Coordinator and Autism Consultant for Allegan Area Educational Service Agency. Prior to serving in this capacity, she taught students with Autism Spectrum Disorders at both the elementary and secondary level for 12 years. This is Amy's first experience initiating an official peer-to-peer program within a school district. Amy is currently pursuing Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification through Oakland University and hopes to utilize these skills to improve quality of life for individuals on the Autism spectrum and their families.

Maureen Ziegler
Maureen has had extensive experience working with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Prior to joining the Autism Education Center staff at GVSU, Maureen worked 19 years as a teacher of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in elementary, middle school and high school programs. She also developed program models for all three levels, including the development of the LINK Program. Maureen has also worked as an A.I. Teacher Consultant for both Oakland and Clarkston Schools and as a Supervisor of the ASD programs in Clarkston Community Schools. Maureen has extensive experience presenting information on topics related to autism at the state, national, and international levels.