Effectiveness of a Supports-Based Approach in Facilitating Peer Interactions in the Classroom Including Students on the Autism Spectrum

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
V. G. Vidal Velasco1 and L. S. DeThorne2, (1)Department of Speech Language Pahtology, Los Andes University, Santiago, Chile, (2)Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, University of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI
Background: Peer interactions have been considered a major issue for students on the autism. They commonly experience challenges in developing friendships, and they have frequently been exposed to negative peer interactions (e.g., APA, 2013; Robertson, 2010). Several intervention programs have been proposed to address this issue. Most of them have taken a skills-based approach, which focuses on working toward normalizing individual skills. Despite reported effectiveness in changing individual behaviors, skills-based programs offer relatively limited evidence for successfully building peer friendships and expose concerns about social-emotional harms that have been associated with pressure to behave neurotypically (Bellini et al., 2007; DiSalvo & Oswald, 2002; Pellicano & Stears, 2011; Sibley, 2015). These Limitations have led to the development of a supports-based approach—based largely on a distributed model of communication (DeThorne et al., 2014, DeThorne et al., 2015, Hengst, 2015)—as an alternative way to facilitate peer interactions involving students on the autism spectrum (Vidal, Robertson, & DeThorne, 2018). This supports-based approach prioritizes egalitarian interactions, participation in shared activities, and flexible access to multimodal communicative resources.

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.