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Effects of Peer Support Interventions on the Communication of Preschoolers with ASD: A Systematic Review

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AIM: Many young children with autism spectrum disorders (CWASD) experience difficulty in the development of communication skills. Teaching peers to make use of communication support behaviors has been investigated as a strategy to increase communication for young CWASD in early childhood settings. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine (a) the overall effects of peer support interventions on the communication of young CWASD, and (b) any possible moderating variables related to participant and intervention characteristics.

METHOD: A positive social support model to improve the communication of students with complex communication needs was used as a framework for the study of intervention components. Eighteen single-case experimental design studies (48 CWASD) met the inclusion criteria and were advanced to the full coding and analysis phase of the investigation. Descriptive analyses and effect size estimations using the Improvement Rate Difference (IRD) metric were conducted.

RESULTS & CONCLUSION: Overall, peer support interventions were found to be effective across a range of young CWASD and intervention approaches. Evidence was also identified for the use of the positive social support model as a framework to guide the development of peer interventions to support young children with complex communication needs in early childhood settings. The use of friendship groups, the selection of play materials based on the interests of the CWASD, and the provision of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) were identified as highly effective components within interventions.


Shelley Chapin    
The Pennsylvania State University
United States

David McNaughton    
The Pennsylvania State University
United States

Susannah Boyle    
The Pennsylvania State University
United States


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