Peer interaction patterns among adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream school settings
The aim of the current study was to document the peer interaction patterns of students with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream settings. Structured observations of a group of 38 adolescents with ASD drawn from 12 mainstream secondary schools were conducted over a two-day period and data compared with those of school, age, and gender matched comparison groups of 35 adolescents with dyslexia and 38 with no identified special educational needs (the ASD and dyslexia groups were also matched on SEN provision). Frequency and duration of peer interaction behaviours were coded. In terms of duration, multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) indicated that participants with ASD spent more time engaged in solitary behaviours, less time engaged in co-operative interaction with peers, and more time engaging in reactive aggression towards peers than either comparison group. In terms of frequency, similar patterns emerged, but additionally participants with ASD engaged in fewer instances of rough/vigorous play, and were subject to more instances of social initiation and instrumental verbal aggression by peers than either comparison group. The findings of the current study support the authors’ theoretical model of peer group interaction processes for individuals with ASD, and have implications for both social skills training and the development of peer awareness and sensitivity. Limitations are noted.