PEER-MEDIATED SOCIAL SKILLS INTERVENTION OF ELEMENTARY STUDENTS WITH HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM
Wilson, Kathleen Lanham
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Successful generalization of learned social skills in elementary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be promoted through rehearsal and practice with typically developing peers in natural settings. However, current social skills training for students with high-functioning ASD in inclusive public school settings is typically mandated by the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), and often entails little more than a half hour per week of instruction by a specialist working with two to three students who share similar social communication deficits. This type of intervention is referred to as the pull-out model since the child is removed from the classroom curriculum for a specific amount of time. Without the chance to transfer learning into authentic situations (e.g. recess, lunch) with typically developing students, the training process is incomplete, and the opportunity for generalization can be lost. This study examines possible explanations for continued use of this model, explores the perceptions of stakeholders regarding the need for a new service delivery, and reviews literature to explore optional models that might provide comprehensive social skills training. Subsequently, a model incorporating generalization opportunities in natural settings with typically developing peers is selected as a viable option. This new model, peer-mediated social skills instruction (PMII), is utilized in a recess intervention in two elementary schools in a district that currently employs only the pullout model. Results are discussed concerning implications for future use of PMII as a supplement to the current social skills model.