What is a Peer Buddy?

Being a peer buddy provides a chance for students with and without disabilities to work together in inclusive educational settings.  Being a peer buddy increases access for students with disabilities to both the general curriculum and to all of the activities of a typical high school student.  Additionally, being a peer buddy encourages positive social interactions and social relationships to develop between students with and without disabilities.

Peer buddy programs pair students with and without disabilities who are able to work together on the basis of their unique strengths. In the past, we typically talked about student “peer tutors” as opposed to “peer buddies”.  However, peer buddy programs really transcend peer tutoring programs by focusing on the relationship that is formed:  a relationship of equal partnership in growth and learning, rather than one of student and tutor. It is because of this focus on relationships that peer buddy programs have such great potential for encouraging social learning on the part of both students with and without disabilities.

In the peer buddy modules, students without disabilities will learn about the history of discrimination against people with disabilities and their journey to gain inclusion in public education, as well as ways that they themselves can advocate for and help their buddies to plan for their futures. Peer buddies can help the students they support to develop their own goals, monitor their own progress, and reach their intended outcomes under the guidance of their teachers. The day-to-day activity of a peer buddy can certainly change, depending upon the kinds of learning activities planned. Together, peer buddies (students with and without disabilities) can work on their lessons in general education classes, go on Community Based Instruction, do service learning activities together, participate in extracurricular activities with one another, or eat lunch together. Every day will prove to be different, and hopefully will be an opportunity to learn all that they have to offer each other.

Typically, peers are paired with students with disabilities in the classroom and serve as “buddies” who are there to provide support with school work (working in small groups, responding to questions, summarizing key ideas, etc.), offer advice, and just be a friend. The peer buddy is usually a student who is interested in providing support, who understands the requirements of the classroom, is comfortable with the subject matter, and would like to bring the student with a disability into his or her circle of friends. The benefits of Peer Buddy Programs are valuable for all students involved. The biggest benefits gained from the Peer Buddy Programs are the building of friendships and relationships, development of social skills, positive academic outcomes, and developing a more positive outlook on life (Carter & Hughes, 2008).

It is important to remember that Peer buddies are friends, role models, guides, and above all peers. They are not teachers, disciplinary figures, instructional assistants, behavior modifiers, or supervisors.

Resource: Carter, E. W., Cushing, L. S., & Kennedy, C. H. (2009). Peer support strategies for improving all students' social lives and learning. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.