Years of research on inclusive practices indicate the strong positive impact of peer supports. To begin with, there is a clear social emotional benefit of positive peer interactions. Additionally, students are often more willing to accept help from a peer than from a teacher. By creating classrooms that encourage and peer supports, we capitalize on the knowledge and abilities of our students and their relationships, and we take the pressure off of ourselves to have to do and know everything all of the time. Unfortunately, peer supports are frequently conceptualized as a “typical” student helping a student with a disability; or a “more-able peer” helping a “less-able peer.” This is one way in which peer supports can be implemented in the classroom, but peer supports can be so much more than that.
By understanding that human difference is a normal aspect of life, and breaking down our own assumptions about which differences are privileged, we can begin to see the multitude of ways in which peers can support and teach each other. What is more, we begin to see that peer supports are not just uni-directional and that each member of a supportive community benefits when we all help each other out. As classroom teachers striving for inclusivity it is our responsibility to provide the structures that create community and support our students in supporting each other.