Effectiveness of a Supports-Based Approach in Facilitating Peer Interactions in the Classroom Including Students on the Autism Spectrum
Objectives: Because therapeutic programs that align with a supports-based approach are scarce, the present study uses a single-case experimental design to examine the effectiveness of a supports-based approach in promoting peer interactions in two children on the autism spectrum. For this purpose, the following research question was developed: Is there a functional relation between social supports and the increase of frequency of communicative offers between two children on the autism spectrum and one of their neurotypical classmates?
Methods: This presentation focuses on the analysis conducted within an ABAB design to measure the effectiveness on providing classroom-based social supports in increasing communicative offers observed within 2 peer dyads. Specifically, John and Ethan were a dyad of 8-9-yr-old boys observed in the context of a 3rd-grade art class. Max and Reagan were a dyad of 5-6-yr-olds observed within the context math class. Baseline phases (4-7 sessions per phase) consisted of video-recorded observations of peer interaction during classroom activities without any explicit support by the examiner. Support phases (3-7 sessions per phase) consisted in the implementation of 4 clinician strategies (i.e., direct prompt, scaffolding, behavioral interpretation, and environmental arrangement) during classroom activities. Analysis was conducted through visual inspection.
Results: Increased communicative offers were observed during supports phases for both dyads (relative to baseline phases), which indicates a functional relation between the social support provided and the increased frequency of communicative offers. In both dyads, the average number of communicative offers doubled between baseline and social support phases. Additionally, for Max & Reagan dyad, a rise of communicative offers was observed during the second baseline phase compared to the first baseline phase, which might be indicative of a degree of generalization.
Conclusions: This is one of the first studies to provide experimental evidence for a supports-based approach to peer interaction in students on the autism spectrum. Generalizations results are encouraging in showing how this approach has impact on quality of life indicators such as friendship.