School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Lucinda Spaulding


Peer Networks, Inclusion, Disabilities, Peer Interaction, High School


Education | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the shared experience of non-disabled peers serving as a “best buddy” to high school students with a disability in the southeastern United States. The theory guiding this study was Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism Theory, where learning between two diverse learners occurs through social interaction with one another, specifically a high school student with a disability and a non-disabled peer buddy. Participants in this study (N=14) were selected from three different high schools throughout one school district, each with active extracurricular Best Buddies Clubs in place. Data were collected through 1:1 interviews, focus group interviews, and written responses from the participants. Qualitative data analysis resulted in the development of four main themes: shared experience of the nondisabled peers, pinpointed areas of self-growth, challenges, and a change in their perception of students with disabilities. The essence of the study was found to be that serving as a buddy to a student with a disability was an overall positive experience that allowed participants to pinpoint areas of self-growth and changes in their perceptions of individuals with disabilities. Implications of the findings encourage nondisabled peers to continue to spread awareness about the club in order to foster the social inclusions of students with disabilities. Implications for staff members and school personnel encourage the continued implementation of programs like the Best Buddies Club to create and facilitate opportunities to successfully increase the social interaction between students with disabilities and their peers. Future research should attempt to include the perspective of the students with disabilities as well as to further document the impact programs like the Best Buddies Club can have.