ASHA journals
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Using peer supports to show interest (Bambara et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-04, 19:52 authored by Linda M. Bambara, Christine L. Cole, Alana Telesford, Kathleen Bauer, Irem Bilgili-Karabacak, Amanda Weir, Amanda Thomas
Purpose: This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of a multicomponent peer-mediated intervention (PMI) on teaching adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) how to show interest in peer conversation partners by asking partner-focused questions about the person, their interests, or their experiences and by making partner-focused comments that positively affirm peer statements or express concern.
Method: A multiple-baseline design across three verbally fluent high school students with ASD was used to assess the effects of the PMI, which involved training peers (n = 10) to support conversation and the students’ use of target skills, and training the students to use partner-focused skills with the aid of a self-reflection cue sheet during conversation with trained peers in a high school cafeteria. Ten-minute samples of student–peer conversations were transcribed and analyzed. Generalization with untrained peers was assessed.
Results: The PMI was highly effective in increasing all students’ use of partner-focused skills. Gains were maintained by two students in a return-to-baseline condition. Generalization was evident for all students with varied results. Peers and students with ASD perceived the intervention to be beneficial.
Conclusions: This study adds to the limited research showing that PMI can be used in high school settings to improve target conversational skills and provides preliminary evidence that PMI can successfully address an underresearched pragmatic language difficulty (i.e., introducing and maintaining topics of conversation of relevance and interest to conversation partners) common among adolescents with ASD. These findings invite replication to extend generality and assess the impact of the intervention on peer relationships.

Supplemental Material S1. Graphic used during student training illustrating partner-focused skills for showing interest in peer conversation partners.

Supplemental Material S2. Self-reflection cue sheet used by the student after a conversation to self-reflect and before the next conversation to cue or remind the student to use partner-focused skills.

Supplemental Material S3. Individual means for all coded utterances: PF Skills, Non-partner-focused skills and other.

Supplemental Material S4. Sample conversation: Juan during maintenance.

Supplemental Material S5. Sample conversation: Stephan during intervention and Nicolas during maintenance.

Bambara, L. M., Cole, C. L., Telesford, A., Bauer, K., Bilgili-Karabacak, I., Weir, A., & Thomas, A. (2021). Using peer supports to encourage adolescents with autism spectrum disorder to show interest in their conversation partners. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.