UMSL teaching and learning professor April Regester has established the Missouri Peer Supports Project. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Fitting in and finding a place where you feel safe and accepted can be hard for anyone at any age. It’s even more challenging for children with disabilities. That’s where the newly created Missouri Peer Supports  Project comes in.

April Regester, an assistant professor of teaching and learning at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has established the Missouri Peer Supports Project in collaboration with the Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities and the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis.

The project will kick off with a summit from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at Holiday Inn Select in Columbia, Mo.

Erik Carter, an associate professor of special education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.; and Lisa Cushing, associate professor of special education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; will present information on “Peer Support Strategies: Promoting Inclusion, Learning and Social Connections for Students with and without Severe Disabilities.” Carter and Cushing are leading experts in the field of peer supports. In addition, members of R.E.A.C.H. (The Road to Embrace Autism with Care and Heart) and The All of Us Club will present their current efforts for similar programs in Missouri schools.

The informational summit will serve as the launch of the Missouri Peer Supports Project, which will begin in the fall and select three high schools in Missouri to participate. Regester and Erika Redmond, a graduate research assistant, will develop a curriculum for the project and work with teachers and staff in the districts to create a peer support system.

“This project is an exciting opportunity for schools to take part in a pilot program that truly values the need to include students with disabilities academically and socially,” Regester said. “Typically, the focus on such programs has been the benefits for students with disabilities. However, new research is demonstrating the benefits of these types of programs for all students with positive outcomes in academic and social measures. I am excited to be a part of such an innovative and much-needed initiative in our state.”

The summit is $10 for an individual and $50 for a school district with up to 10 participants.

For registration information, print and mail registration at form here.  For more information about the summit or the Missouri Peer Support Project, email or call 314-516-5917.

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton