Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Specht, Jacqueline A.


This research assessed a pilot implementation of START’s (STatewide Autism Resources and Training) peer-to-peer support program (LINKS) that occurred in three elementary schools (N = 36 participants). The purpose of the study was to teach social skills to students who have difficulty with social interactions and to enhance their social participation in inclusive classrooms. Mentors involved in this study had problem behaviours, and mentees involved had experienced social exclusion. Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews determined the progress of students and the effectiveness of the overall program. Results revealed that mentors and mentees across the three schools displayed positive changes in their social skills and behaviours. The observations and post-interviews support the use of implementing a peer-to-peer program to assist students who have social challenges. Suggestions for future implementation are made based on the findings.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study tested a peer program developed by the START (STatewide Autism Resources and Training) project. A peer program is when a student is accountable for providing support to another student. This program occurred in three elementary schools, and 36 people took part in this study. The purpose of this research was to aid students who have difficulty with positive social interactions with their peers and to increase their acceptance and number of friendships at school. Schools elected in this program had inclusive classrooms, meaning all students with varying academic competences are in the same class. Older students (mentors) worked with younger students (mentees) in pairs for one session a week. Each session focussed on a skill that is important for socializing with peers. Surveys and interviews determined whether the peer program was valuable in supporting peers. Based on the information, mentors and mentees progressed in their social skills and behaviours. The observations and end of program interviews support implementing a peer program to assist students who socially struggle.