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Peer-mediated inference making intervention for students with autism spectrum disorders


Promoting inference skills of students with poor comprehension has been suggested as an effective reading comprehension strategy (Cain & Oakhill; Cain et al., 2001; Oakhill & Yuill, 1986). Empirical studies show that students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have demonstrated relatively poor comprehension skills compared to their intellectual level and have shown deficits in inference making. However, teaching them how to make inferences appropriately in written text that may leads to better comprehension performance has not been fully investigated yet (Whalon & Hanline, 2008; Saldana & Frith, 2007). Under the framework of weak central coherence (Happe & Frith, 2006), this study developed peer-mediated inference making intervention: literal and goal inference making training through peer mediation. Peer-mediation was implemented through interdependent group contingency and structured peer interactions.

Three elementary school students with ASD and six peers participated in the study. The students with ASD demonstrated a significant discrepancy between ability and reading comprehension. Each target student with ASD was placed in a small group, along with two peers: Three heterogeneous learning groups were composed. A multiple baseline design across participants was implemented (Kazdin, 2011) to assess the effects of peer-mediated inference making intervention on reading comprehension skills and behaviors of three target students with ASD. Participants' Self-evaluation in Reading was examined to evaluate this study's social validity. Three instructors held two, fifty- minute after-school tutoring sessions per week for 12 weeks.

After peer-mediated inference making interventions, students with ASD demonstrated score gains on their comprehension quizzes and collateral gains in contingent responses and verbal initiations. Peers at different levels of reading ability also showed gains in their scores. All participants reported promoted Self-evaluation in Reading. Findings from this study suggest that peer-mediated inference making intervention is useful comprehension strategies to promote both comprehension skills and appropriate behaviors of students with ASD. Peers' positive outcomes and instructors' high fidelity support this as a promising instructional approach in inclusive educational settings as well. Thus, this study contributes to the existing literature on effective educational strategies for students with ASD in inclusive educational settings.

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