This web site has been created as a flexible tool for the special education teacher and other professionals working within the classroom to create, implement, improve, or maintain effective peer buddy programs within their schools. Each teacher will choose which materials to use in her or his class and make decisions regarding how students will use the chosen materials. As a para-professional, your role in the success of the peer buddy program is especially important.

When the teacher conducts the peer buddy training, normally the first week of school, the teacher will be going over the class syllabus and discussing the grades. As a para-professional/ paraeducator, you will likely be involved in this training and introduced to the peer buddies. If the teacher decides to use the KY Peer Power site, you will want to familiarize yourself with it as well. Each module has a main title. Within each module are several sub-units. After reading and exploring web connections for each sub-unit, the peer buddies will be instructed to complete an activity. Upon completion of the activity, the student will then turn the product into the teacher.

As a para-professional who is familiar with the students in the program and their unique needs, you can work with teachers and administrators to use this site to: 

  • assist in developing new programs
  • help to refine current programs
  • give assignments, develop new assignments
  • get new ideas to use and find links for related information

Purpose of Peer Buddy Programs  


The purpose of a peer buddy program is to provide a credited elective class for students to gain experience working with same-age peer students who have significant disabilities in educational settings. Peer buddy programs allow for positive social interaction and social relationships to develop between students with and without severe disabilities, as well as provide a natural form of support in the classroom for students with disabilities.


Role of the Para-educator  


The role of the para-educator can change according to the student’s needs, the peer buddy’s abilities, and the preferences of the special education teacher and general education teacher. There is no doubt that the para-educator is a very important contributor to the success of students who receive special education services, but research shows that their traditional role of  working one-on-one in the general education classroom may unexpectedly reduce the opportunities for the student to interact with other students in the class and to develop independence. As a part of a peer buddy program, para-educators contribute by coaching and monitoring peer buddies, taking data, and being available as an inclusive resource for all of the students in a general education classroom, while allowing students with disabilities to be supported in their learning by their classmates, whenever possible. In other words, if a peer buddy system is implemented, your job may change some to help support the natural peer relationship, but you will still be an extremely important resource to the student and his or her peer buddy, as well as to the greater school community. These new roles for para-professionals often allow you to see, in turn, new and often unexpected growth in the students that you serve!

As a para-educator who is familiar with students receiving special education services, you may be needed to collaborate with the teacher and the peer buddy in how to adapt assignments for the student, become a resource to all students in the general education classroom, work with the peer buddy on how to handle situations that might arise with the student, work with the peer buddy and student to make sure that assignments are getting completed and turned in, help train peer buddies, supervise peer buddies, and meet with the special education and general education teachers. Your role in the peer buddy process is irreplaceable, and you have the unique opportunity to both support the natural social relationship between the student and his or her peer(s) as well as provide assistance in making the peer buddy familiar with the individual needs of your student.

A recent study from Erik Carter and colleagues found the following feedback from para-educators following involvement in a peer buddy program:

  • “I always felt responsible, like I had to be there. And now I see I can walk away and that promotes interaction. I used to think people would think I wasn’t doing my job if I wasn’t right there. I view that differently now.”
  • “There are natural supports occurring. I can walk away from him in class now and the students will talk with him and help him and they miss him when he’s gone.”
  • “It helps me to see too that our thinking can expand too. It can be difficult to get kids to branch out and connect with other kids.” (p. 120).

·      ·         

*Source: Carter, E. W., Moss, C. K., Hoffman, A., Chung, Y., & Sisco, L. (2011). Efficacy and social validity of peer support arrangements for adolescents with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 78 (1), 107-125.