Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inclusive Peer Training May Outperform Traditional Autism Interventions

Notes from Positively Autism: I consider this study to be really groundbreaking...if we can train other children in inclusive classrooms to engage socially with children with autism, and this helps improve certain social outcomes better than one-on-one training with an adult, how much money and staff time could be saved? I think this is an important line of research and hope to see more soon.

Reference: Autism Speaks. Read the full article here:

Peer Training Outperforms Traditional Autism Interventions

Training classmates produces greater gains in social inclusion than even one-on-one training between therapist and child the findings of a landmark study argue for a shift away from relying solely on such standard social-skills training and toward greater emphasis on teaching classmates how to interact with children who have social challenges.

The study was led by educational psychologist Connie Kasari, Ph.D., of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment. It appeared in the April issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The researchers enrolled 60 students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in grades 1 through 5. All attended mainstream classes for at least 80 percent of the school day. The researchers randomly assigned them into one of four groups:
  • One group received one-on-one training with an adult for six weeks. The provider helped the child practice social skills such as how to enter a playground game or conversation.
  • One group didn’t receive any social skills training, but had three typically developing classmates learn strategies for engaging children with social difficulties. These classmates did not know the identity of the child with autism.
  • One group received both one-on-one and classmate training.
  • One group received neither intervention in the first phase of the study and later participated in one of the interventions.
All training sessions lasted 20 minutes, twice weekly for six weeks. During the intervention, observers watched and noted playground behaviors. These observers did not know which children had received which intervention. Three months after training completion, the investigators returned to observe the children with autism and interview them and their teachers.

Those whose classmates received training – including those who themselves received no social skills counseling – spent less time alone on the playground and had more classmates naming them as friends, compared to those who received only one-on-one training or no intervention.

In addition, their teachers reported that the students with autism showed significantly improved classroom social skills following training of their peers. By comparison, the teachers noted no changes in the social skills of children with autism who received one-on-one coaching without any training of their classmates. Like the playground observers, the teachers were not told who had received which intervention.

Read the rest of the article, including some limitations of the study, here:

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