Inclusive Practices

Using Natural Peer Supports in Middle/ High School: Inclusion, Learning and Relationships

  • October 14th, 2011
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Using Natural Peer Supports

It is an important challenge to ensure that students with intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities benefit fully from the many learning and social opportunities available within their schools. Using Natural Peer Supports in Middle/ High School: Inclusion, Learning and Relationships is a project supported by Erik Carter, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University and offered in partnership with PaTTAN. The project addresses practical and promising approaches for developing supports and fostering relationships among students with and without significant disabilities, both in the classroom and throughout the broader life of middle and high school.

Peer support strategies:

  • are evidenced-based,
  • address curricular access and social interaction within inclusive classrooms and extracurricular activities, and
  • foster natural supports as an avenue for promoting inclusion in service-learning, after-school, and community activities.

Starting Points and Possibilities: Promoting Inclusion, Learning and Relationships for Students with Complex Needs

The purpose of this video series is to provide school leaders, teachers, paraprofessionals, families and students information on Natural Peer Supports, as presented by Dr. Erik Carter. The five video sessions comprising this training series frames the essential information needed to develop the structures that promote inclusion, learning, and relationships between students with and without disabilities, including a special focus on students with low incidence and significant cognitive disabilities.

To access the video training series, click on the following hyperlink or video series icon: Starting Points and Possibilities

Additional Resources and References:

Peer Buddy Programs for Successful Secondary School Inclusion By Carolyn Hughes, Ph.D., & Erik W. Carter, Ph.D. To help with every phase of program implementation, readers will get a wealth of practical, research-based materials: extensive case examples, program checklists, suggested classroom adaptations, sample forms such as peer buddy applications and evaluation tools, and learning activities school staff can use to brainstorm and solve problems.

Peer Support Strategies for Improving All Students’ Social Lives and Learning By Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., Lisa S. Cushing, Ph.D., & Craig H. Kennedy, Ph.D. A complete, start-to-finish guide to peer supports, this book is packed with reproducible planning, implementation, and evaluation tools; evidence-based strategies; and vignettes that illustrate successful peer supports.

Carter, E. W., Sisco, L. G., Melekoglu, M. A., & Kurkowski, C. (2007). Peer supports as an alternative to individually assigned paraprofessionals in inclusive high school classrooms. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32(4), 1-15.

Carter, E. and Kennedy, C. (2006). Promoting Access to the General Curriculum Using Peer Support Strategies. Research & Practices for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31(4), 284-292.

More information on creative and promising approaches for supporting youth with disabilities to participate more fully and naturally in school, work, and community activities can be found at:

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