Date of Graduation

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

Learning and Instruction

First Advisor

Yvonne Bui

Second Advisor

Robert Burns

Third Advisor

Caryl Hodges

Abstract

Students with autism often display significant challenges when acquiring friendships and participating in ongoing relationships with typical peers. The social interaction deficits that characterize students with autism are further exacerbated by the severity of the disorder, such that students with low-functioning autism require significantly more support to successfully participate in peer interactions than students with high functioning autism. This study used mixed methodology to examine the effects of a classwide peer-mediated intervention on the social interactions of students with low-functioning autism and typically-developing peers. A single subject ABAB design was employed in which students with low-functioning autism were grouped with typical peers for a shared reading activity. The study alternated between baseline and intervention stages in which students were taught to stay, read, and talk with their buddy. Results of the study indicate that three of the four participants with low-functioning autism increased their interactions with typical peers from each baseline to intervention stage. Results of a perception survey indicate that typical students held a high positive perception of their peers with autism, while interviews revealed that typically-developing peers considered themselves to be friends with their buddies with low-functioning autism. The unexpected response pattern of one participant with low-functioning autism warrants further investigation into individual characteristics of the student as well as characteristics of the peer group.

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