School Psychology Review

Special Issue: Peer Interventions for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder in School Settings
Volume 48, Issue 2 (2019)

Editor: Amy L. Reschly


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  • Peer Interventions for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder in School Settings: Introduction to the Special Issue

    Kara Hume & Jonathan M. Campbell

    pp. 115–122

    Abstract. Federal legislation protects the rights of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be educated alongside typically developing peers in inclusive settings. The majority of students with ASD are educated with typically developing peers for at least 40% of the instructional school day; however, students with ASD can experience peer difficulties within these settings. The purpose of this special issue is to highlight the role of peer interventions in improving various aspects of functioning for students with ASD. In this article, we introduce and review the evidence base supporting the value of peer interventions for students with ASD. We situate peer interventions within a general multitiered system of support and align interventions in the special issue with each tier. We conclude our introduction by highlighting findings from investigations contributing to the special issue. Across this special issue, the authors identify barriers to implementation of peer interventions within school settings and their potential solutions.

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  • Facilitating Social Interactions With Peers in Specialized Early Childhood Settings for Young Children With ASD

    Kara Hume, Ann Sam, Irina Mokrova, Stephanie Reszka, & Brian A. Boyd

    pp. 123-132

    Abstract. Young children on the autism spectrum have minimal social interaction with their peers in inclusive preschool settings, thus limiting opportunities to build social relationships. Research indicates that explicitly training peers how to interact with classmates with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can increase the likelihood of peer-directed behavior; however, less is known about other strategies that can be used to support the peer-related social interactions of children with ASD and how those strategies may be used in conjunction with trained peers. Video data were analyzed from 23 classrooms using the Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents model (an inclusive preschool program that emphasizes peer training and peer support) to provide a snapshot of environmental features and the role of implementation fidelity that may enhance or inhibit the social interaction of 52 children with ASD. Findings indicate that social interaction is most likely to occur when an adult is not present, during small group activities, pretend play, and large motor activities. Implications for practice are discussed.

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  • Remaking Recess Intervention for Improving Peer Interactions at School for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Multisite Randomized Trial

    Wendy Shih, Michelle Dean, Mark Kretzmann, Jill Locke, Damla Senturk, David S. Mandell, Tristram Smith, & Connie Kasari

    pp. 133–144

    Abstract. There is a prevailing need for social skills interventions that staff in public schools can deliver effectively to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study leveraged partnerships among three large urban school districts and researchers at academic institutions to design and evaluate a social skills intervention, Remaking Recess (RR). In RR, members of the research team coached school personnel on strategies to increase peer engagement and social networking during unstructured times (i.e., recess or lunch). A three-site, randomized trial enrolled 80 children with ASD in 69 general education classrooms, grades K–5, in 35 public schools across three large urban districts. Children in RR were more included in peer social networks at follow up than children in the wait-list group based on peer sociometric ratings, F(1,118) = 1.97, p = .05. While there was no main effect of the intervention on peer joint engagement, children spent less time in solitude during recess in RR than in the wait-list group, F(1,76) = 4.01, p = .049. School personnel could implement the intervention and found it easy to use in a school setting. These results suggest that a personnel-facilitated intervention holds promise when it comes to changing school social environments and improving social outcomes for children with ASD.

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  • Educating Students About Autism Spectrum Disorder Using the Kit for Kids Curriculum: Effects on Knowledge and Attitudes

    Jonathan M. Campbell, Elizabeth A. Caldwell, Kirsten S. Railey, Olivia Lochner, Rachel Jacob, & Shelby Kerwin

    pp. 145–156

    Abstract. Elementary school students frequently report no knowledge about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and often endorse negative attitudes toward peers with ASD. Investigators evaluated a peer education autism program, the Kit for Kids (KfK), with 234 students from 19 classrooms and 3 elementary schools. Students receiving the KfK curriculum reported greater autism knowledge when compared to controls (i.e., Time 1) and maintained knowledge at the 1-week follow up. Controls received KfK 1 week later and reported significant gains in knowledge. For students unfamiliar with autism, KfK improved initial attitudes toward autism when compared to controls. At Time 2, intervention and control attitudes were similar, suggesting that the initial effect of KfK for naïve students persisted over 1 week. Gender was a robust predictor of attitudes, with girls reporting more favorable attitudes compared to boys. Recommendations for additional research and use of peer education and autism awareness efforts within schools are offered.

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  • Exploring Feasibility and Fit: Peer-Mediated Interventions for High School Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders

    Erik W. Carter, Jessica R. Dykstra Steinbrenner, & Laura J. Hall

    pp. 157–169

    Abstract. Although peer-mediated interventions can provide effective pathways for enhancing the social outcomes of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), their application within secondary schools has been fairly limited. In this exploratory study, we examined the implementation of peer support arrangements and peer networks for 102 adolescents with ASD attending 15 public high schools. Our focus was on the characteristics of students selected to receive these two interventions, the fidelity with which each was implemented, and the views of participating educators on the social validity of both. Educators involved a wide range of students with ASD in these interventions, delivered each with varied levels of fidelity, and considered both approaches to be acceptable and feasible. We highlight some of the complexities associated with delivering these social-focused interventions in high school settings and offer recommendations for future research and practice.

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  • Peer-Based Interventions for Children and Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder: History and Effects

    Samuel L. Odom

    pp. 170–176

    Abstract: Peer-mediated intervention has become a primary education practice in programs for children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This article traces the emergence of peer-mediated interventions from early laboratory studies to the extensive applied research in the field that has documented the efficacy of the practice. Interventions to affect attitudes of peers toward their classmates with ASD and ecological features of classrooms that promote peer social interaction are discussed as indirect but important approaches to promoting the social engagement of children and youth with ASD. Three types of peer-mediated approaches—peer initiation, peer-mediated social networks, and peer support—are identified as more direct approaches to promoting the social engagement of children and youth with ASD. The article concludes with a discussion of the role of peer-mediated interventions in increasing the attractiveness (reinforcement value) of peer interaction for children and youth with ASD.

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  • Effect of Physical Activity on Academic Engagement and Executive Functioning in Children With ASD

    Sarah N. Nakutin & Gabriel Gutierrez

    pp. 177–184

    Abstract. Numerous interventions have been identified as evidence-based practices for educating students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Physical activity (PA) has recently been recognized as an evidence-based practice to decrease maladaptive behaviors and increase desired behaviors. Exercise has been found to increase academic engagement in students with ASD; however, little research has been completed on the effectiveness of physical exercise as a school-based intervention. PA has also been found to be an effective intervention to increase executive functioning (EF) in students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, little research has been completed on the effects of PA on EF in students with ASD. A multiple-baseline design was used to examine the effects of PA on academic engaged time and EF. Three students participated in a jogging intervention, were observed in the classroom, and completed EF measures. Results suggested large effect sizes for academic engagement for all three students. Although no significant effects were found on EF, results indicated PA may be an effective and feasible intervention to support academic achievement for students with ASD in schools.

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  • Educational Versus Clinical Diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Updated and Expanded Findings

    Lucy Barnard-Brak

    pp. 185–189

    Abstract. Research has indicated that educational diagnoses can differ from clinical diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This brief report provides an updated analysis using 2014–2015 IDEIA data compared to the contemporary CDC prevalence rate (1 in 59). Additionally, the variable of sex was analysed, which was omitted from the previous study. Results show a greater discrepancy in educational diagnoses for girls versus boys as compared to the clinical diagnoses. For race/ethnicity, only Asian American children were more likely to have an educational diagnosis versus a clinical diagnosis of ASD.

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