Increasing Playground Engagement in Special Education Students with Autism Utilizing an Aide-Mediated Social Skills Intervention
This study aimed to test the effects of a modified psychosocial intervention on peer engagement for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Utilizing a multiple baseline single-subject design, the intervention was implemented during recess and lunch periods to three different children enrolled in special education classrooms at an urban, Title 1 elementary school. Each of the children were from a minority background, and were deemed economically disadvantaged by their school district. The intervention consisted of five coaching sessions with special education aides, providing tools and teaching components towards increasing peer engagement children with ASD. Each child enrolled in the study was engaged with peers less than 50% of the time on the playground at baseline. After the conclusion of the week-long set of coaching sessions, each child was significantly more engaged with peers on the playground when compared with baseline measures, with average engagement ratios of 80%, 93%, and 95%. Fidelity measures on aide behavior also indicate changes towards promoting increases in peer engagement. Aides consistently set up and participated in games and activities, and regularly monitored the target children to ensure they were engaged socially with peers throughout the recess period. While this study has several limitations, these initial results suggest that a brief, aide-mediated intervention can be beneficial in increasing peer engagement for children with autism.