A specialist peer mentoring program for university students on the autism spectrum: A pilot study

Abstract
The provision of peer mentoring may improve tertiary education outcomes of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study evaluated the pilot year of the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program (CSMP), a specialised peer mentoring program for autistic university students aimed at improving self-reported well-being, academic success and retention in university studies. A single group pre-test, post-test design was employed. Quantitative and qualitative evaluations were undertaken with 10 young autistic adults to explore the effectiveness and acceptability of the CSMP program. Students completed a battery of questionnaires focused on general anxiety, state communication apprehension, perceived communication competence, and communication apprehension both prior to, and five months after commencing enrolment in the CSMP. Information regarding academic success and retention was also obtained. Interviews with participants provided further insight into their experience of the program. Students enrolled in the CSMP showed significant improvement in social support and general communication apprehension assessment scores. Interviews revealed key features of the CSMP that may have contributed to these positive outcomes. The current study provides preliminary evidence that a specialised peer mentoring program can improve the well-being of autistic students, and highlights the importance of interventions which are individualised, flexible, based on a social model, and target environmental factors such as social support.
Citation
Siew, C.T., Mazzucchelli, T.G., Rooney, R., & Girdler, S. (2017). A specialist peer mentoring program for university students on the autism spectrum: A pilot study. PloS One, 12(7): e0180854. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180854

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