Health & Medical Parenting

Book Review: Peer Support Strategies



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The Bottom Line

by Erik W. Carter, Lisa S. Cushing, and Craig H. Kennedy; 140 pages. Subtitle: For Improving All Students' Social Lives and Learning.

Though written for educators, this guide to peer support programs has a lot of food for thought for parents, particularly about the desirability of fading back adult assistance in the classroom and allowing students with special needs to benefit from academic and social collaboration with their classmates.

The hardest part is probably getting school personnel behind that idea, too, with appropriate planning and execution.

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Pros
  • A positive take on peer support programs and their benefits for all students
  • Offers research on effective ways to carry it out
  • Includes forms to copy and use
  • Case studies illustrate how the program has worked for students and teachers
  • The program outlined here would be relatively easy to implement

Cons
  • You'll need to hand the book off to school personnel to get anything done
  • Would have to be carefully set-up and monitored to ensure special students are getting all they need
  • Case studies, though interesting, make things look easier than they probably are
  • Manufactured friendships don't always become genuine friendships
  • Some parents may be uncomfortable with making their child another child's job

Description
  • Chapter 1: Social Relationships, Inclusion, and Access to the General Curriculum
  • Chapter 2: The Practice and Promise of Peer Support Interventions
  • Chapter 3: Crafting Effective Support Plans


  • Chapter 4: Identifying Peer Support Participants
  • Chapter 5: Equipping Students to Provide Academic and Social Support
  • Chapter 6: Implementing Peer Supports in the Classroom
  • Chapter 7: Evaluating Student Progress
  • Epilogue: How Far Can We Go?

Guide Review - Book Review: Peer Support Strategies

I'm like the parent described in this book who's determined to have a one-on-one paraprofessional with her child at all times. I've fought for that, and I've felt it was essential to my son's safety and success. Though peer support programs have interested me, I've been concerned by the way they seem to put regular-education students in the position of paraprofessionals, and worried that schools may turn to peer programs as a way to put aides out of work.

Peer Support Strategies, I'm happy to say, put some of those worries to rest. It explains -- in parent-friendly terms, though it's a book for educators -- why peer support may be more appropriate than adult support for kids in middle and high school, and how paraprofessionals are an essential part of making that interaction effective. I was interested in the way the peer programs in the book were used to draw special-needs students more fully into their mainstream classrooms, out of the corners where they've been sitting with their one-on-ones.

Also intriguing was the notion that the peers in question don't need to be the top-of-the-class over-achievers looking to polish their resumes with some special-needs service. The authors mention research that shows kids whose grades and attendance weren't always tip-top often do better academically and are more motivated to get themselves to school when they have a part to play in a peer's education. That makes this a win-win situation that schools should look at seriously.

Whether they will or not is another matter -- and a poor job of peer support set-up could turn special-education students into burdens or jokes. Still, if inclusion is the future, this needs to be a part of it. Time for parents to read up.

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