Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Reader 1

Sheila Walker

Reader 2

Michael Spezio

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© 2014 Penny Wu

Abstract

Past studies have found substantial benefits associated with integrating neurotypically developing students as peer supporters for children with autism (McCurdy & Cole, 2013). The current study asks the question as to whether or not the support of typically developing students benefits the social skills development of twice-exceptional students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The “twice-exceptionality” in this study is specifically related to a heightened interest and proficiency in technology compared to children in their same age group, along with a coexisting diagnosis of autism. iSocial, a virtual learning intervention for children with ASD, is a recently developed program targeted to help children with ASD. To date, no research has examined iSocial’s use with peer supporters. As such, a new intervention that combines the use of iSocial with a peer support component is proposed. Typically developing peer supporters and children with ASD will collaboratively complete an 8-10 week intervention. It is predicted that children with autism in the experimental group will score significantly higher on post-intervention tasks than their baseline tasks. It is also predicted that children who collaborated with peer supporters will achieve greater symptom improvements on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and higher scores on the Reading the Mind in Eyes test than the control group. While children in both groups are anticipated to benefit from the iSocial intervention, it is likely that the highest gains will be observed in the peer-supported group. The outcomes of this study may serve as essential and practical ways for developing new methods to test and design interventions for children with ASD.

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