The Power of a Peer

by Jordan Lupton, M.S., CCC-SLP (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, North Carolina)

Photo credit: Pixabay

INTRODUCTION

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face significant struggles with social interaction, yet they have fewer opportunities to interact with typically developing peers because of an increased need for adult assistance with academics, attention, or behavior. Although these areas are important for improving a child’s quality of life at school, many parents of children with ASD rank social communication and interaction among their top concerns, and many ASD learners themselves desire to learn ways to improve peer relationships at school.

Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII) provides a way for teachers and therapists to address this area of need. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill define PMII as follows:

“With a foundation in behaviorism and social learning theory, PMII involves systematically teaching peers without disabilities, ways of engaging learners with ASD in positive and meaningful social interactions.”

In addition to the benefits for the learner with ASD, PMII also benefits typically developing peers in expanding their social network, developing new friendships, and having higher quality interactions with classmates. Anyone can be trained in the use of PMII. Teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals should work together to implement PMII successfully.

PMII FOR PRESCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY-AGED CHILDREN

  • Peer Modeling: Teach a peer to demonstrate a target skill to the student with ASD. Target skills may include: requesting, following directions, greeting, or joining in an activity or conversation.
  • Peer Initiation Training: Train peers to encourage interactions with students with ASD, such as maintaining conversations, taking turns, or responding to invitations.
  • Direct Training: Peers and students with ASD are taught specific skills directly.

PMII FOR UPPER ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

  • Peer Networks: Peers meet and interact with the learner with ASD in a regular meeting outside of instructional time.
  • Peer Supports: Peers support the learner with ASD academically and socially in an inclusive environment.

USING PMII IN THE CLASSROOM OR THERAPY SESSIONS

  1. Identify the goal for your learner with ASD and times when social interactions naturally occur.
  2. Select peers thoughtfully and carefully. The peers should be exhibit good language, social and play skills, express a willingness to participate, and have parent permission.
  3. Train peers to recognize and appreciate individual differences, then review target behaviors.
  4. Develop scripts for peers to use, and role play with them.
  5. Plan for peers to interact with the learner with ASD in scheduled times daily.
  6. Monitor progress and provide peer support and feedback as needed.

SUMMARY

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention is an effective intervention for students with autism spectrum disorder. PMII can be used to effectively address goals in social skills, communication, joint attention, play skills, school-readiness, and academic skills.

REFERENCES

AFIRM Team. (2015). Peer-mediated instruction and intervention. Chapel Hill, NC: National

Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina. Retrieved from http://afirm.fpg.unc.edu/Peer-mediated-instruction-and-intervention

Dynamic Assessment: The Answer to Moving Away from Standardized Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP and Beth Burns, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Our most recent blog entry talked about the limitations of standardized tests.  Today, we’ll address the answer to the question:  “If I shouldn’t use a standardized test to determine presence of a language disorder, what do I do?”  In short, use dynamic assessment, which means test – teach – test.

Dynamic Assessment is the best way to eliminate the biases present within standardized assessments. As a contrast to a standardized assessment, dynamic assessment  shifts our consideration from do they know it… to can they learn it?

Can the student acquire new skills with the same effort as peers from similar backgrounds?  

Dynamic Assessment  is composed of a pretest, mediated learning experience, and a post test. Throughout the entire process we are evaluating whether the student can learn new skills with the same ease or effort as typically developing peers.  Dynamic assessment also gives us insight into how the student learns. The subjectivity within Dynamic Assessment means it is imperative for us as clinicians to develop our clinical opinions by knowing what normal is.  We also need to know how much instructional effort is needed for typical peers.  In other words, we need to have good clinical skills.

Language Samples incorporating Dynamic Assessment are the fastest and the best way to provide a qualitative look at a student’s language.

For detailed information on applying dynamic assessment — Check it out!

Fast Mapping Task Test — Check it out!

Non-Word Repetition Task– Check it out!