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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A peer-mediated intervention for middle school students with autism spectrum disorder Brain, Thea


Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk for social isolation and loneliness. Although students with ASD are spending more time in inclusive settings at school, research has found that simply placing a student with ASD in physical proximity to typically developing peers is not sufficient to promote social gains. This study used a non-concurrent multiple-baseline, multiple-probe across participants design to investigate the effectiveness of a low-intensity, low-cost peer-mediated intervention (PMI) on social behaviours (engagement and communicative acts) for middle-school aged students with ASD during lunch breaks at school. Nine typically developing peers received less than one hour (40-50 minutes) of peer coach training. Following training, peers were encouraged to interact with their classmate with ASD during lunch breaks at school, using the strategies taught during training. Peer coaches were provided with brief feedback after each probe observation during intervention and praise only during follow-up. Results showed a functional relation between the intervention and both engagement and communicative acts, with three demonstrations of effect across participants. There was some maintenance of effect at 1-4 weeks follow-up. Social validity of this intervention was high for both peer coaches and classroom teachers. In addition, mutual enjoyment was observed for the majority of probe observation sessions across groups. This study contributes to and extends the existing PMI research by including participants between the ages of 11-13 with varying intellectual and social-communication abilities and by delivering the intervention in natural, unstructured school settings. It is important to identify evidence-based interventions that have high social validity from the perspective of school administrators, as interventions that are effective, efficient, and cost-effective are most likely to be adopted by schools.

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