FAQs for Peer Buddies

How do I get to know students with disabilities better?


Ask students the same types of questions that you would ask any new person you have just met. Ask them about their family, their likes and dislikes. Ask them what they like to do. Ask them about their friends. Always try and reflect back to them what they have said so that they know that you are really listening. If a student is using an assistive device to aid in communication, learn to use it and to understand that student’s personal system. This will show that you care and that you are listening – you would do this with any of your friends!


Tell the student things about yourself and try to find things that you both have in common. Ask the student to join you in other activities. Call him or her at home. Stop by to visit. If the student has a computer, use email, or become Facebook friends! This will mean a lot to the student and to his or her parents to know that their son or daughter has friends that care, and having a new friend will make you feel just as good.

How do I talk to students with disabilities?


You talk to students with disabilities the same way that you would to anyone else. Please refer to the unit on Communication and People First for more information, especially if the student uses a device for communication.

How do I treat students with disabilities?


You treat students with disabilities the same way that you would treat classmates without disabilities. You treat them as you would any of your friends. If you have any questions, then ask the special education teacher. For more information, refer to the unit on People First.


What do I do if I do not like working with a particular student?


First, you should figure out why you think that you do not like to work with this student. Is it a barrier to communication?  Difficulty making conversation?  After you have figured out why, think about ways to work around it. Think what you would do if this same thing was happening with a friend without a disability.  How would you react?  Could you handle the situation the same way?  If you think that you are not able to work with a student after you have tried to handle the situation yourself, then you need to discuss the situation with your teacher.  Do not allow the situation to continue and, most importantly, do not treat the student with a disability in a negative way due to your feelings. The special education teacher will know how to handle the situation so that it remains positive.


What do I do if my buddy does not follow my instructions?


Rather than giving instruction, you are there to work as an equal with the student, as a peer. Make sure that when you are explaining something or helping that you are not giving directions like a teacher but as a peer, just as you would do group work with other classmates. If the student still struggles, ask the student if she or he understands the task. If there is still difficulty with the student following the directions, then ask the teacher for help. Tell the teacher that you believe there is some difficulty with understanding what is to be done. Remember you are not in the role of a teacher, but as a fellow student, and as a friend. 

What will students with disabilities do after graduation?

After graduation, students with disabilities have the same choices as students without disabilities. They could choose to continue their education or get a job. Some students will continue to live at home and others may live on their own or with roommates. Just because they have disabilities does not mean that there are less options for these students. Please refer to the units on Preparation for Adulthood and Self Determination for more information on this topic.

How can I develop a closer friendship with my buddy?

The answer to this is simple. If you were to meet anyone new, how would you go about developing a close friendship? You develop a friendship with a person with a disability the same way as you would a person without a disability. You get to know the person by talking; you call or text them or “friend” them on Facebook, hang out with the person, visit the person, and simply spend time.


What can I tell my other friends about my buddy?

Tell your friends all of the positive attributes that your buddy has. If you were introducing a new person without a disability to your friends, what would you tell your friends about that person? Tell them the same types of things about a student with a disability, such as, “she has the best taste in music” or “he really likes to draw”. Remember to keep the negative information to a minimum and remember confidentiality.  Ask your friends if they have any questions.  Answer those questions so that they will feel more comfortable, but remember not to break confidentiality and share information about the student’s disability or the student’s IEP – this information is confidential. You need to model how to interact, so that your friends can learn from you. Make sure that your friends understand that students with disabilities are just like them and that they wanted to be treated as such. Make sure that in the beginning, there are a lot of positive interactions to break the ice. 

What if I do not feel comfortable being alone with my buddy or other students with disabilities?

If this question pertains to you, you should talk with the special education teacher. You should not feel bad, as many people feel uneasy in unfamiliar situations. The important thing is that you acknowledge this, and then discuss it with the special education teacher and others important in your life.

Can all students with disabilities talk?

Every person can communicate his or her wants or needs, but not everyone communicates in the same way. Some people may communicate verbally, others with their hands, behavior, body movement, communication devices, and still others with eye movements. During training, the special education teacher should have reviewed with you how each student, and especially your buddy, communicates. The teacher should have discussed how to communicate with those students who have alternative or augmentative communication systems (see the unit on Communication). The important thing to remember is that no matter how a person communicates, make sure that you take the time to pay attention. Each and every person has something important to say; it does not matter how they say it or how long it takes!

What will I work on with my buddy?

You may work on a variety of academic or other skills, with much of what you will be working on coming from the general education classroom. Students with moderate to severe disabilities may work at a slower pace than you do (though in some areas, they may learn faster than you do—it’s all up to individual learning styles).  You may be working on several different items in a day, and you may work on the same thing for several weeks, again, learning styles differ from person to person. The important thing to remember is to make the process about learning together and from each other—a true peer relationship.

Will I know what to do in class?

The teacher or para-educator will give you instructions on what to do and how to do it. If you do not understand, please ask so that the learning can be a success.


What will the future hold for my peer buddy?

It is important to know that, as a general rule, people cannot be “cured” of disabilities.  However, they may find ways to adapt to a disability, and may grow greatly in both confidence and skills. With excellent instruction and plenty of the right support, abilities certainly can improve!  Most importantly, students with significant disabilities can go onto to have good jobs, have friends throughout their lives, and even have the opportunity to go to college (see the unit on Preparation for Adulthood).


What do I do if my buddy has a seizure?

During your training, the special education teacher should have reviewed seizures. If a student with whom you are working has seizures, make sure that you have talked with the special education teacher so that you know exactly what to do.

There are a few basics rules to follow: 
  • Contrary to popular belief, when a person is having a seizure, never put anything in his or her mouth. Putting something in the mouth could cause injury .
  • When a person is having a seizure, try and get that person down to the floor as safely as possible (but never force a person having a seizure into any position – that can cause serious injury!).
  • When the person is on the floor, gently turn the person to his or her side. This helps with breathing.
  • After turning the person on to his or her side, try and put something soft under the head to protect it.
  • Another thing to do is to move any objects that are close to the person.
  • During a seizure, some peoples’ bodies have violent jerks, and if there are any close objects (tables, chairs, glass items) more injury could occur.
  • A very important thing to take note of is the time of the seizure. If there is a clock or watch close by, take note of the time that the seizure began and when it ended.
  • If there is another person close by, then try and get that person to get the teacher.
  • Never try and hold the person during a seizure. If you do this, you could cause injury to both of you.
  • Sometimes during the seizure, the person can lose control of his or her bodily functions and have a toileting accident. This will not cause harm, but could cause the person to be very embarrassed. If this happens, get a coat or blanket to cover the student.
  • Medical attention is not always needed when a seizure occurs. The special education teacher will know when to call for medical assistance.
  • When you do talk to the special education teacher, tell the teacher everything that happened before, during and after the seizure. All of this information is very important.