Autism and Peer Tutoring in the Classroom

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Designing an Effective Peer Tutoring Program

Implementing an effective peer tutoring program can be both simple and complex given the diversity of students in the classroom. Students with autism have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that provides diagnostic data on academic and behavioral skill levels. However, regular education students may present behavioral issues and social skills that may complement or deflect from those presented by their autistic peers.

For teachers struggling to manage a classroom of inclusion, the strategies below can be used to construct a peer tutoring program that uses both regular education students and students with autism in an inclusion role of peer collaboration.

Peer Tutoring Program

  • Take a look at your class roster and identify the behavioral issues and concerns presented by all of your students. Make a list and categorize that list of behaviors that be managed in the class and those that may need Administrative intervention.
  • Identify students who are autistic by reading the IEPs provided by the Special Education case manager. Make a list of behavioral and social skills that are identified in the IEP and see how they are categorized within the list generated above for all of your students.
  • Create a peer tutoring program where students with autism can be the peer tutors for their peers in a social, academic or teacher helper role for a day. This can teach both students with autism and their peers that all students can have leadership roles and help each other with skills in the classroom. Have a weekly rotation role of peer tutoring leads that can be posted on a large calendar or poster board created by students. Make a list of peer tutoring responsibilities and have a checklist for the peer tutor lead that their group has fulfilled the expected responsibilities weekly and for the month.
  • Each month have a drawing for the four peer tutor leads (have four groups per class if possible) for the month. You can also go alphabetically down your class roster list to identify the 4 peer tutor leads for the month. Another option would be to have students volunteer or the teacher can select the four leads each month.
  • Groups can create names for their groups such as “Buddy’s Four” or “PTB (Peer Tutoring Buddies) for the visual calendar board each month.
  • Peer tutoring groups can be trained to create supporting roles for each member of their group. Keep groups to 3-4 members per group so that students can have maximized social engagement and learning opportunities. The teacher can hold monthly training sessions for newly formed groups to provide them with a checklist of learning objectives and goals.
  • Have a transition program in place so that when new groups are formed, out-going groups are recognized with a class celebration that includes awards and other external reinforcers and in-coming groups are encouraged to select peer leads and engage in the checklists for the month.
  • Make sure that students are putting up weekly data on the visual calendar board, so that as a teacher you can create a monthly data report to show the effectiveness of the peer-tutoring program.

Peer tutoring for students with autism can provide an effective avenue of social, academic and behavioral learning objectives when every student is given a role as a peer lead and peer participant in collaborative peer groups.