Description: Instruction that utilizes peers as teachers. There are two main kinds of peer-mediated social skills training: peer imitation/modeling and peer tutoring. Peer imitation is the use of a peer/learner to demonstrate a specific action/activity. The other learner/peer matches or imitates the action/activity. Peer tutoring is the use of a peer/learner to model a specific action and/or to present a verbal direction. The other learner/peer approximates the action or responds or follows the verbal direction. The FIRST peer/learner evaluates the SECOND learner/peer’s performance and, if correct, delivers a reinforcer and/or praise.

Research Summary: Peer-mediated social skills training can have a positive effect in children with autism. Recent research has indicated that peer-mediated social skills training increases attending and commenting skills to peers, play and conversation skills, and social interaction when peers of typical development underwent substantial training to correctly implement the teaching procedures to children with autism.

Recommendations: When peers of typical development undergo substantial teaching, peer-mediated social skills training may be an appropriate teaching procedure for individuals with autism, although additional research is needed to confirm these findings. Another important area for future research is the evaluation of the long-term effects and application of skills learned through peer-mediated social skill training to a variety of settings and situations.

Selected References:

Systematic reviews of scientific studies:

McConnell, S. R. (2002). Interventions to facilitate social interactions for young children with autism: Review of available research and recommendations for educational intervention and future research. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 351-372.

Odom, S. L., Brown, W. H., Frey, T., Karasu, N., Smith-Canter, L. L., & Strain, P. S. (2003). Evidence-based practices for young children with autism: Contributions for single-subject design research. Focus of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 166-175.

Strain, P. S., & Schwartz, I. (2001). ABA and the development of meaningful social relations for young children with autism. Focus of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 16, 120-128.

For additional information:

Johnson, S., Meyer, L., & Taylor, B. (1996). Supported Inclusion. In C Maurice, G. Green, & S. Luce (Eds.), Behavioral intervention for young children with autism: A manual for parents and professionals (pp 331-342). Austin, TX, Pro-ed.

Taylor, B. A., & Jasper S. (1999). Teaching programs and activities to improve the social behavior of children with autism. In C. Maurice, G. Green & R. Fox (Eds.), Making a difference: Behavioral intervention for Autism. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Weiss, M. J., & Harris, S. L (2001). Reaching out, joining in: Teaching social skills to young children with autism. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

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