The Power Of Peer Support (POPS) program at Clintonville Middle School helped students better understand and develop their own social skills this past school year.
Special education instructor Kim Klister presented data outlining the program’s success to the school board at their meeting on Monday, June 25.
“Students with Autism, Asperger’s, or other disabilities can be socially unaware,” said Klister as she began to explain the POPS program. “They lack ‘social sense’.
From a child’s point of view, this lack of social awareness can lead to bullying, isolation, and helplessness.
“From the school’s point of view, students who lack social sense may often show up late or be absent, have multiple discipline referrals, and could experience academic and social failure,” explained Klister.
In order to help combat a lack of social sense among special education students, the POPS program was introduced at the sixth grade level. A group of 21 regular education students were nominated by teachers to support special education students throughout their school day. Qualifications for these 21 students included kindness, a caring attitude, and compassion.
Once chosen, the students were told why they were selected. Special training meetings were held during lunch hours. These students were given instruction on how to help teach and lead special education students to learn the social skills needed to fit into school social groups and be accepted by all.
“From October to December, regular education students met to discuss scenarios and stories while learning more about Asperger’s, Autism, and other disabilities. The students were taught ‘Sixth Sense Curriculum’ which helped them understand social awareness and relate to students who don’t have that same social awareness.
Teachers were then asked to recommend target students to join peer support groups. Fifteen students needing peer support were identified. Unfortunately, only three could be selected to join the peer groups.
Once the groups had formed, students met during lunch to practice different social scenarios, play social skills games, and learned about different social abilities.
“The target kids loved coming to their weekly lunch group,” Klister said. “The program was being talked about by students, and by April, a POPS group was formed in fifth grade as well. We took an end-of-year survey of our student mentors, and many said they look forward to being a part of the program next year. They recognized that the program helps kids in need, and they were happy to become more aware of those students.
“Target students were also significantly impacted. One student was asked to describe how they felt before starting the program, and they used three words: ‘bullied, crushed, hopeless’,” continued Klister. “After being part of the POPS program, they were asked how they felt after finishing sixth grade. The student again used three words: ‘better, hopeful, friends’. Others made comments such as, ‘I loved POPS! I got to mingle with kids I never knew before.’; ‘POPS was awesome! I have friends now!’; and, ‘I liked POPS! We need more groups!’”
A significant impact was also reflected in one target student’s MAP reading and math scores. The student had a negative growth amount in reading in fourth and fifth grade, but his reading scores while in sixth grade a growth amount five times higher than the target growth amount. Similarly, the student had negative growth amount in math in fourth and fifth grade, but nearly quadrupled the target growth amount in sixth grade.
Klister concluded by stating that she hopes the program will continue next year and expand to other grade levels.
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