For young adults on the spectrum, the opportunity to work with younger students is a great way to build confidence and self-esteem. Through Peer-to-Peer Tutoring offered by Academy360 Upper School’s Community Based Work Experience program (CBWE), they can do just that!

Peer-to-peer tutoring has been run by the CBWE for six years, bringing older students into Academy360’s Lower School where they assist with academics and socialize with children who perhaps struggle with issues they’ve faced themselves. It’s also an excellent way to provide motivation for their own studies and development of social skills.

“The tutoring gives the peers a sense of giving back,” says Leanne Hesse, director of the CBWE “As well as helping the younger students.”

Parents learn about peer-to-peer tutoring when introduced to the CBWE program during Academy360 Upper School placement meetings. For many, the idea of their children having increased interaction with other kids in a positive way is very appealing.

“My experience as a peer tutor has been awesome.  It made me feel like a responsible adult,” said a recent tutor.


Peer tutor Frankie M. loves working with the younger children.

Peers can work one-on-one with students, or help in the classroom in other ways. Some enjoy direct interaction with the younger students, while others prefer to help the teacher with different tasks.


“Sometimes having a peer explain something in similar language, different from what an adult or teacher might use, makes it easier for the children understand,” says Gina Catania, principal of Academy360 Lower School.

“Peer tutoring gives me a sense of pride because I know I am helping others learn,” another recent tutor said.

The CBWE Peer-to-peer tutoring runs the whole school year, with the students visiting Academy360 Lower School once a week. This year, three students are taking part in the program, working in middle school classrooms. One peer is assisting in math, while two others are helping with career education skills.

Ethan B. helping out in the classroom.
Ethan B., left, helping out in the classroom.

This is the first year of tutoring for Ethan B., who is a graduate of Academy360 Lower School. Now in high school, he feels a huge sense of accomplishment in coming back and helping students at his former school. An 11th grader, last year Ethan created and presented a PowerPoint show for our middle schoolers on what it was like to start high school. This year he’s helping students with career skills.

This year the students are working with some academic content, says Principal Catania, so it’s helpful to pair students with a shared interest, which makes it a social and friendship experience too.

What Frankie M. likes most about peer-tutoring is working with the students in the classroom. When we visited the classroom, the 20-year-old was helping the teacher run a PowerPoint presentation on the May Market. “They’re good kids!” he says. “I like helping them draw.”

Peer tutor Ameenah R.

Nineteen year-old Ameenah R. loves the Lower School’s art room, one of her favorite places in the school. Sitting with other students in the classroom, she talked about the different items they made for the May Market. This year, she made paper drawings of owls that younger students turned into little ceramic figures.

One of her ideas for things to sell at next year’s market is fake food items that look real. “People like stuff like that,” she told the teacher.

For nearly 11 years Spectrum360’s Community Based Work Experience program has been helping students train for jobs in the community. It helps them apply life skills and academic subject matter outside the classroom and features hands-on learning opportunities. When ready, the program places them in internship jobs in the community with the support of a job coach. Ultimately the goal is to have the students in paid positions in their home communities with minimal or no support.


Lisa Crouch is the Assistant to the Public Information Officer. Prior to working at Spectrum360, she worked at Yahoo, MSN, The Bergen Record, and other media outlets. She has a BA in English Literature from Columbia University. She is the proud aunt of an Academy360 Lower School student. In her off time, Lisa is a digital artist and writer.