Are you the parent of a teen who’d like to be a peer tutor? Terrific! Here are some tips and insight you can pass along:
Peer Tutors! You have been given the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. Your example, friendship skills, and patience can make another person’s school experience more positive. You may not realize it, but this student you are going to help has parents and family members behind the scenes who applaud you and are grateful, beyond words, for your efforts.
As the mother of an autistic teen, there is some advice I can give you to help make your peer tutoring experience more effective and meaningful:
1. Find out about your peer. What does she like to do? What are his favorite things? Learn what you can, without getting too personal.
2. Find out about your peer’s disability by talking to the administrator who gave you your peer tutoring assignment. Does your peer have dyslexia? Is he autistic? Does he have Asperger’s Syndrome or ADHD? Does she have a physical handicap? What are the symptoms? And for a real valiant, “extra credit” effort, look it up on the internet. HOWEVER, remember your peer is an individual person, and not defined by her disability! And disabilities come in varying degrees.
3. If you’re not sure what is expected of you, ask. Find out exactly what your “job” entails. Will you be helping your peer with her class assignments? Do you need to keep your peer focused on work? Will you be escorting him to class or his locker? You can’t be successful if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do.
4. Don’t patronize. That means, don’t treat your peer like a little child or puppy. Your peer with a disability is a person, deserving respect like anyone else. Don’t use childish language or use cutesy expressions. Try to treat your peer like one of your friends.
5. Be on time for your peer tutoring duties. Often people with disorders like autism rely on predictability. Your peer will feel safer and more confident if he or she can expect you to be to class on time.
6. Don’t use nicknames for your peer. Find out what he likes to be called, and be consistent.
7. Don’t tolerate, or participate in bullying or teasing. If other students make jokes or unkind comments, don’t play along out of fear. Just say, “Please don’t tease her that way.” Report inappropriate conduct to your administrator. Think…what if this were my sister or brother? How would I want him or her to be treated? In most cases, the other students will follow your lead. It might help to educate them. In a private moment, explain your peer’s disability in a straightforward “non-gossipy” fashion. With a little knowledge, other students may become more sympathetic and less cruel.
8. Don’t borrow things, especially money, from your disabled peer. He or she may have difficulty keeping track of possessions, and will need to have easy access to school supplies. You would never want to be in a situation where it would appear that you were taking advantage of your peer tutoring position or mistreating your peer.
9. For an A+ peer tutoring effort, spend some social time with your disabled peer. Try spending lunch with him or her on occasion. Don’t worry about what others think; it’s likely they will develop tremendous respect for you. Your efforts will help your disabled peer learn to find friends and be a friend to others. And YOU will learn a lot about acceptance, tolerance, kindness, and unconditional friendship.
10. If problems arise, bring them up with your adult supervisor or school administrator immediately. If your disabled peer refuses to listen to you, isn’t focusing, or is engaging in inappropriate behaviors, don’t try to solve the problem without help. Let your supervisor know what is going on, and listen carefully for advice on how to improve the situation. Don’t take it personally; your peer’s disability can be difficult for him or her to manage. It might take trying several strategies before a solution is found.