Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I include a student with severe disabilities into my classroom?  

The quick and easy answer is to include the student with a disability into your class in every activity in every way that you can, just as you would any other student. Find creative ways to include him/her. Any further and specific questions should be discussed with the special education teacher.

How do I “use” a peer buddy?  

The special education teacher can discuss with you how to “use” peer buddies in your class, what the peer buddies should be doing with and for the student with a disability, and how much the peer buddies are needed.  The special education teacher can also give you specific examples of appropriate types of support.  If you have questions, email the teacher or set up a time to meet with him/her. Remember that peer buddies play a support role. The peer buddy is not to come to class and just sit next to the student. The peer buddy is to work side-by-side with the student. Just because there is a peer buddy with a particular student, please do not make them their own group. The student and peer buddy are to be included as any other students in your class, and while they should work together, the peer buddy and the student should be assigned to groups in your class as would anyone else. The purpose is to facilitate social interaction as naturally and frequently as possible!

Why do I need a peer buddy in my class?  

You may not always need a peer buddy in your class. If you feel that you and the other class members can give the supports needed, discuss this with the special education teacher. If you feel that you need a peer buddy at certain times, then request this of the special education teacher. If you tell the special education teacher that you do not need a peer buddy, and then later come to believe that you do, bring it to the attention of the special education teacher.

Can peer buddies actually be taking my class for credit (e.g., English, Spanish) while they are providing support as a peer buddy?

Peer buddies can actually be students in your own class – i.e., taking your class for credit.  In that case, all students – with and without disabilities - are truly learning together, and the peer buddy is graded like all other students in your class with you as the teacher. 

Secondly, a peer buddy could be taking the peer buddy course as a separate course elective and providing support to a student with a significant disability in your class, as a part of that elective course.  In that case, the special education teacher is the “teacher of record”, as he or she is creating the assignments and determining the peer buddy’s grade.  The peer buddy in that case would not be taking your class for credit.

It is possible that the peer buddy could be both taking your class for credit and doing the peer buddy class as an elective (though in that case, the peer buddy elective would be taken as an “Independent Study”, and the student would literally have two separate sets of assignments – one for all of the requirements for your course and one for all the requirements of the peer buddy elective class – to do throughout the semester or year!).

What do I do if the peer buddy is disrupting my class?  

You address the behaviors of the peer buddy just like you would with any other student in your classroom.

What do I do if the peer buddy is not assisting the student and is socializing with other students in my classroom? 

This problem also needs to be handled as it would with any other student in your classroom. Part of the function of the peer buddy is to ease interaction between students with disabilities and other students in the classroom. If the student with the disability is not participating or you believe the peer buddy is creating a distraction, try to move the peer buddy and the student to a different group. If the problem continues, then you should discuss this with the special education teacher and consider possible options. Peer buddies who are taking the peer buddy elective course get daily points depending on their work. This problem should reflect in the daily grade, as well as the observations.

What are the limits of a peer buddy? 

The purpose of having a peer buddy attend a general education class with a student is to support and assist the student in the class. The peer buddy is asked to work with the special education student in ALL of the class activities. The peer buddy can adapt the lessons, read the work, scribe for the special education student and when needed can go on field trips with the class. Peer buddies must not be used as discipline figures, do the work for the student, and are not to take the place of or do the work of the teacher. A peer buddy is not a teacher and should never be treated as the person responsible for the student.

Do I listen to what the peer buddy recommends for the student? 

The general education teacher may want to listen to what the peer buddy suggests and recommends for the student. The decision ultimately falls on the general education teacher and/or special education teacher (depending upon the nature of the recommendation). The peer buddy may have worked closely  with the student, so in some situations the peer buddy may have some good input, but if the general education teacher has any doubts or questions as to what to do, the best piece of advice is to check with the special education teacher. The special education teacher should address any major issues directly with the general education teacher and not through the peer buddy.

Am I responsible for giving the peer buddy a grade? 

The special education teacher is the person responsible for assigning the peer buddy a grade if the peer buddy is taking the elective peer buddy course . Part of the grade relies on daily point for attendance, effort and participation. There is also an observation grade. The general education teacher can have input on the peer buddy’s grade through their participation in these two facets. The general education teacher is responsible for the grade of the special education student enrolled in the class. 

Moreover, if the peer buddy is taking the general education class for credit in that subject (e.g., Spanish, History), then the general education teacher grades the peer buddy like he or she grades all other students in that course.

If peer buddy is not on my roll list, do I take attendance?   

If the peer buddy is taking the elective peer buddy course, then the peer buddy is on the attendance roll of the special education teacher. What is recommended is that the peer buddy checks in every day with the special education teacher before attending your class. However, if the peer buddy is taking your course for credit, then of course, that student will be on your role!