A realist evaluation of peer mentoring support for university students with autism

Published January 2019
Abstract
Education is effective in improving outcomes in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While peer mentoring has demonstrated preliminary promise in supporting university students with ASD, the effective mechanisms remain unclear. The aims of this study were to explore the required contexts, mechanisms and outcomes of peer mentoring for university students with ASD. Semi‐structured interviews based on a Realist Evaluation framework were conducted with 23 peer mentors and 24 university students with ASD. Thematic analysis identified three context themes: ‘environmental conditions’, ‘university course demands’ and ‘aspects of ASD’; four mechanism themes: ‘mentor’, ‘communication and social interaction’, ‘problem solving’ and ‘training and supervision’; and five outcome themes: ‘identifying personal strengths’, ‘increased autonomy’, ‘achieving goals’, ‘relationships’ and ‘positive mentor outcomes’. Standard peer mentoring approaches can be enhanced to meet the needs of students with ASD by including training for mentors on ASD, and approaches that support mentees’ social interaction and communication needs.
Citation
Thompson, C., Falkmer, T., Evans, K.L., & Bölte, S., & Girdler, S.J. (2019). A realist evaluation of peer mentoring support for university students with autism. British Journal of Special Education, 45(4), 412-434. doi: 10.1111/1467-8578.12241

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