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Peer to Peer Program at Knapp Helps All Involved and Provides Unexpected Benefits

There has been an increased brightness on the faces of many students at Knapp Charter Academy this year. A Peer to Peer group, led by Special Education Occupational Therapist Kristin Laidlaw, has paired special needs scholars with their general education classmates to help them model appropriate school behavior, as well as increase academic independence and social engagement.
The response from all the children has been impressive.

Peer to Peer members
Special Education Occupational Therapist Kristin Laidlaw leads the Peer to Peer group in a game during their Friday group time.

“They love it,” Laidlaw said. “They are blossoming and they feel acceptance. They just light up when their peers are with them. They know who their assigned peers are each day, and each has five peers who are assigned to different days.”
Students and their peers share the same grade level, which helps with classroom schedules. The program will likely expand to include students of different grades helping each other. It’s another great move from Knapp, which has outperformed the local district for the past 13 years.

Peer to Peer membersPeer to Peer students hug while playing a game during Friday group time together.

“I kept them in the same grade this year because it’s easier for the classroom management,” she said. “This is my first year doing it, but next year we’ll probably expand it because there are some middle schoolers who could benefit from the program.”
The peers sit together in classrooms and help is provided when needed, whether it be with paying attention, staying focused on an assignment, or performing a task that is normally challenging for them.

Peer to Peer membersSpecial Education Occupational Therapist Kristin Laidlaw with part of her Peer to Peer group.
The program has had an unexpected benefit as well.
“The kids love it, and it has increased attendance,” Laidlaw said. “These kids will come to school on Fridays just because it’s group day. It’s also helped reduce classroom issues because if they don’t meet their behavior expectations for the week, they can’t come to the group meeting on Fridays.”

Fridays are a big draw because all the students gather for games, crafts, and snacks. It’s a special time for all the students to connect with each other at one time in a group setting.

Peer to Peer membersSpecial Education Occupational Therapist Kristin Laidlaw with a second group of her Peer to Peer students.
“The work is hard,” she said. “Students will come to me each week with challenges, so we talk through all of those things in our group. The general education teachers are a huge support. They’re the ones that really have the day to day of making sure the peers are seated there, that they’re supporting the student, that they’re following through. It’s really a huge team effort.”
Great work supporting all the scholars at Knapp, Mrs. Laidlaw and Peers!

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About Knapp Charter Academy
Knapp Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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