About the Guest(s):
Elizabeth Biggs, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She is also an affiliated faculty member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Her research focuses on improving social, communication, language, and literacy outcomes for students with complex communication needs, particularly supporting their belonging and inclusion.
Erin Turner, MA, is an Educational Consultant for the Enhancing Peer Networks Project at Vanderbilt University. As a special educator for 12 years, Erin served diverse schools and districts across many roles. She taught both general and special education classes, led an inclusion program, and served as a district-wide special education coach. She now collaborates with and provides training to educators and school sites to implement the Enhanced Peer Networks Intervention.
Summary: In this episode, Tim Villegas interviews Elizabeth Biggs and Erin Turner about the importance of fostering peer relationships in inclusive classrooms. They discuss why relationships with peers are often overlooked, the benefits of inclusive classrooms beyond academic progress, and the role of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in supporting communication access for students with limited speech. Elizabeth and Erin share insights from their research and provide practical strategies for educators and families to promote peer engagement and friendship in schools.
- Inclusive classrooms often overlook peer relationships due to a focus on academics and a lack of training in social-emotional skills.
- Friendships promote well-being for students with disabilities.
- Inclusive classrooms foster relationships between students with disabilities and non-disabled peers.
- The Enhancing Peer Network Project aims to develop tools and resources to support social communication and foster relationships for autistic students who use AAC.
- AAC is essential for students with limited verbal speech to communicate and build relationships with peers.
- TIES Center – Creating Communities of Belonging for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities: https://publications.ici.umn.edu/ties/peer-engagement/belonging/introduction
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