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Peers with Purpose

 Problem:

Children with disabilities often need more support than just academic. Socially, they begin to stand out early in elementary school and as they age, the gap continues to widen. Often this leads to bullying and/or becoming a target. Teachers cannot constantly monitor interaction nor is this always appropriate. The budget limits the amount of hired support.

Mission:

Our mission is to aide students needing social support while encouraging compassion and understanding in the general student population through peer partnership.

What is a Peer with Purpose?

A Peer with Purpose is a student who excels socially and shows compassion towards others. Peers with Purpose would be considered a club in which the members are selected or approved by a teacher or committee. Typical peers will be trained in order to aide students needing social assistance in areas ranging from lunch buddies to notifying teachers of situations in which the special student has become a target of bullying. They will need signed permission from their parents to participate.

Who needs a Peer with Purpose?

Students needing social support can opt to be identified with their parents' signed approval and be given a peer officially. There will be many students who need a typical peer but will not be identified. With training, the typical peers will learn to recognize situations in which they can offer help outside of their identified group. As the program grows, general and special education teachers can inform parents of the club and let them know who to contact for more information. Naturally, students with disabilities who have an IEP will be the most likely candidates for this program.

What can Peers with Purpose do?

1. We can encourage the social growth of identified students through peer support.

2. Typical peers can be educated to increase disability awareness and enhance personal growth.

3. School staff will be supported as the students' teams have collaboration across school environments and activities. This will help support the LRE (least restrictive environment) law for the classroom to make transition to mainstream more successful.

4. Administrators will have assistance for student inclusion and promote awareness and good character.

5. Parents of special and general education students will be able to continue their goals for their children more successfully in a supported environment.

Who can be a Peer with Purpose?

There are many options for typical peer selection. Students may be recommended by peers, teachers, parents, or administrators. A selection process would need to be put in place once recommendations were made and an interested school staff member should be chosen to oversee the process. Those selected should stand out with qualities of maturity, responsibility, and sensitivity. They should also be seen as a student who successfully navigates themselves through social situations. Many times these students are seen as popular among their peers. Once a sponsor in the building has been chosen for the program, these guidelines can be put in place.

How will the Peers with Purpose be trained?

The Peers with Purpose Guidebook will contain lessons for the year that can easily be adapted to your grade and school. There are many parents and school staff who are capable of offering training. Among the parent group are professionals in areas such as speech therapy who would be willing to offer training to the typical peers. Some ways to support the Peers with Purpose in their function would be to provide a beginning of the year orientation and regular trainings (once a month meetings before or after school).

Suggested Topics for Meetings:

  • Communication Skills
  • Disability Awareness
  • Program Expectations
  • How to Deal with Inappropriate Behavior
  • Behavior Management Strategies
  • Ideas for Social Interaction
  • People First Language
  • Identifying Bullying
  • Open Discussion - for Typical Peers to Discuss How Things are Going

Through regular meetings, the success of the Peers with Purpose program can be evaluated and adjusted to meet the needs of all students and faculty involved.

Through an organized club and membership, paired with training and awareness, Peers with Purpose will feel empowered to help the identified students throughout the school day or at specified times of need.