Using peer support arrangements in general education classrooms to improve social and academic outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities: A review of the legislative, classroom and developmental impacts


Ezra NS Lockhart

Full participation of students with intellectual disabilities in the general education classroom is the primary and clear message of legislative, policy, and research initiatives. Unfortunately, peer interaction is not as prominent a feature in the lives of students with intellectual disabilities. Peer support arrangements are being used to address peer interaction goals for students with intellectual disabilities. Peer support arrangements involve typically developing peers providing academic and social supports to students with intellectual disabilities in general education classrooms. A systematic literature review of studies published since the enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 through 2016 was conducted to determine the optimal composite and characteristics of peer support arrangements and associated training methods. From this review of six studies, peer support arrangements are found to promote social interactions. Evidence for increased academic engagement of students with intellectual disabilities is mixed; however, evidence for social outcomes is promising. Students with intellectual disabilities experienced increases in social interaction, expressive language, and diversity of social skills alongside decreases in disruptive behaviors. Increased academic engagement for peers who provide support was observed. A conclusion drawn from this growing body of evidence is that peer support arrangements are an effective intervention capable of socially integrating students with intellectual disabilities into the peer culture of the general education classroom. Lastly, a multi-dimensional analysis is conducted on legislative, classroom and developmental impact.


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