In recent years, peer tutoring has been widely adopted as a method of helping children with autism disorders to develop basic communication skills. As the name suggests, in peer-tutoring, use is made of peer mates to help a targeted learner develop necessary skills.
Therefore, through games and other forms of interaction with his/her peers, a child with autism disorders is able to develop in his/her areas of deficiency. The aim this study was to investigate the positive impacts that are obtained as a result of teaching basic communication skills to children with autism disorders through peer-tutoring.
To test the research question, the researcher will study a sample of ten second grade students with autism disorders in an inclusive educational setting. A range of activities that have been designed to enhance basic communication skills of the children with autism disorders will then be initiated in a peer-tutoring set up. Importantly, all efforts will be made to ensure that all the activities are as free from compulsive initiations as possible.
It will therefore be important to observe data without interfering with the natural interactions between students with autism disorders and their normal counterparts. Moreover, although tutors will encourage the interactions between the children with autism disorders and their normal counterparts, they will restrain from the interactions as much as possible.
The researcher’s interest is to observe the rate of natural initiations from each of the students that is participating in the study and how the students with autism disorders reacted to initiations from their normal counterparts during play times. The study covered a period of five months during which occasional observations were made during play times. Among the ten students with autism disorders that had been chosen for the study, five (four boys and one girl) were trained basic communication skills by their peers while the rest were not.
A sample of ten children with autism disabilities were included in this study. All of these participants were second grade children learning in an inclusive school. Two of these children with autism disorders were girls while the rest were boys.
All of the above sample had been diagnosed with one form of autism by a group of four psychiatrists that had had been noting their condition three months before the study. While eight of the participants had autistic syndrome, two had Asperger’s syndrome. The group of peer trainers that participated in this study included classmates/age mates of the sample participants.
It will be useful for the observer, a clinical psychologists, to stay as far as possible from the scene of interactions between the learners in order to obtain accurate data. While teachers were employed to identify groups of normal students that will interact with each of the learners with autism disorders, they encouraged natural interactions among the learners as much as possible.
Two important parameters that would be measured by the observer includes the number of initiations from each of the play mates that will be directed towards the children with autism disorders, and the number of responses from each of the students with autism disorders; as a result of initiations from playmates.
As it has been described earlier, the study consists of ten participants with five being used as a test sample; hence, five students in the sample did not actively participate in the experiment. In carrying out this study, a teacher will identify a group of four students that will be encouraged to play and interact with each of the five students with autism disorders during play times.
During these play time interactions, normal learners educating their counterparts with autism disorders will be instructed to initiate some activities like greetings by hand while free to participate in any other kinds of natural interactions that would arise. Interactive sessions included activities such as playing with balls, greeting each other by hand, playing with toys, among others.
All of the activities that have been mentioned above were carried out within the school compound. During interactions, a clinical psychologist collected relevant data for the study from a position that could not interfere with ongoing activities during the study.
After a period of two months whereby a group of five students with autism disorders had actively been trained by their normal classmates to learn basic communication skills, the rest of the sample was exposed to the same setting of interacting with their normal classmates at play times. Data was then collected from both parts of the study sample.
Plan of Data Analysis
The main aim of this research is to outline the positive impacts that result from helping learners with autism disorders develop basic communication skills through per tutoring. To go about this study, the researcher divided a sample of ten students into two groups that consisted five students each. While one group was peer-tutored, the other one was not; hence, enabling the researcher to differentiate positive outcomes that are accrued as a result of peer-tutoring.
In collecting data, the researcher is interested in noting the rate of natural responses that result from students with autism disorders that have been exposed to peer-tutoring. Such a result was obtained by dividing the number of responses observed from children with autism disorders by the number of initiations from their normal peers during all the observed sessions. Other things that were observed during the study include the level of confidence that was developed in such learners (Autism) as a result of peer-tutoring.
Table Of Responses From Peer Trained Children
|Participants||Number of initiations from peers||Average initiation response|
Table of responses from non peer trained students
|Participants||Number of initiations from peers||Average initiation response|
As it can be observed from the tables above, a higher rate of average responses (resulting from initiations by their peer trainers) from children with autism disorders was observed; as opposed to observations made from untrained children with autism disorders. Moreover, It was observed that those children that had been peer-tutored children in the study were able to greet their play mates, and even maintain an eye contact (Indicating confidence) during interactive sessions.
As it has been observed, the sample of children that underwent peer training displayed a number of positive outcomes. By improving on their average number of responses from their normal classmates, it can be showed that peer-tutoring is helpful in promoting the social and communication skills of children with autism disorders. Such an observation has been made from a range of other studies including the one that was carried out by Harper Blauvelt.
Importantly, as it was seen here, targeted children (with autism disorders) were able to learn how to greet their playmates and even request for things as their confidence and abilities increased as a result of peer-tutoring. Therefore, this study can be used to reinforce the common observation that peer-tutoring is helpful in promoting the social and communication abilities of second grade learners with autism disabilities.
As it can be seen, the sample that was used in the above study is relatively small (10) to come up with a more convincing conclusion. Such a direction resulted from a limitation in time and resources for the above study. In measuring responses from the children with autism disorders in the above study, the observer made some assumptions that cannot be described to have accurately measured responses from the target sample. For example, a student may respond to an initiation in a way that may not be easy to observe.
Significance and Conclusion
As it has been indicated by results from the above study, peer-tutoring is helpful in helping second grade learners with autism disorders develop their basic communication skills, build on their confidence and improve in their socialization capacities. Educational planners can therefore adopt comprehensive peer-tutoring techniques as a way of helping learners with autism disorders develop in their areas of inadequacies.
However, considering the disparities in improvements that have been noted in the above study, it will be helpful to carry out future researches that would focus on individual aspects of learners such as: The domestic environment, the type of autism one is suffering from and the history of a student. Such a direction will be helpful in designing a unique peer-tutoring technique for each student that would be identified to suffer from autism disorder.