Social acceptance and affiliation are important dynamics in the identity of one’s self and the identity of one’s friends. Friendships are vital in a child’s development. Research on typically developing children found that children who lack friends could suffer from emotional and mental difficulties later in life (Fabes & Martin, 2001). Friendships help children develop emotionally and morally.
In interacting with friends, children learn how to communicate, cooperate and problem-solve. They practice self-regulatory behaviors such as controlling their emotions and responding to the emotions of their peers as well as developing their ability to think through and negotiate different situations that arise in their relationships (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). The poor social acceptance of students with disabilities has often been viewed as a result of social skills deficits. However, although students with disabilities often have low acceptance levels, most have some friends or close associates. Research has shown that students who affiliate together support and complement each others’ behaviors by reciprocating each others’ interactional styles, use each other as behavioral models and reward or encourage others’ behaviors and values. Knowing that students with autism often exhibit deficient social skills, little is known about their actual peer affiliations in the inclusive classroom.
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