(April 21, 2014) -- Southwestern Illinois’s Belleville School District is making a positive impact on the lives of their students with autism. Chris Gibson, the district’s autism consultant, reached out to the district’s administrators with the hope of launching a first-of-its-kind mentorship program in the area. Once approved, the pilot program was implemented at Douglas and Central Junior High in Belleville where students with autism are mentoring several of their classmates with autism.
"The program has far exceeded the district’s expectations," Gibson said of the program. "The students with autism have benefited from working with their peer buddies and have experienced growth in several areas, including social skills like making eye contact, staying on task, taking turns and following directions.”
The program started after the number of children with autism from the school district doubled from 40 to 80 in the past year. Gibson’s hope is that these peer mentor programs will expand to additional schools in the district very soon.