Jones, S. C, Telenta, J. & McKay, F. (2012). "I hope this can be shared with everyone in lots of schools": A novel intervention to improve social skills of peers of children with autism. K. Kubacki, S. Rundle-Thiele. 2012 International social marketing conference (ISM): conference proceedings 122-125. Brisbane, Australia: Department of Marketing, Griffith University.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities (Aspect 2009). While there is considerable debate as to prevalence, Centrelink data shows an estimated prevalence of 62.5 per 10,000 for 6-12 year old children (McDermott et al. 2007). While young children find social situations aversive and prefer to play alone, as these children reach their teens many desire social contact with their peers but lack the ability to form and maintain friendships. Observations in schools demonstrate peer interaction in children with ASDs is of lower frequency and poorer quality than peer counterparts (Aspect 2012). The standard approach has been to work on social skills development with the ASD child and/or to educate teachers and support workers in social interaction facilitation. However, these approaches ignore the central element of peer relationships - the need for both parties to better understand each other and develop skills in communicating in a way that is acceptable and understandable to the other. There is a small body of evidence that disclosure of an ASD diagnosis and peer education can increase acceptance by peers (Dowjotas, 2009) although there are no published studies on interventions in schools (Keane, 2007).
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