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Presentation on theme: "A P EER C OACH (PC) T RANSITION P ROGRAM FOR S TUDENTS WITH A SPERGER S S YNDROME (AS) Kelly Eastman, M.S., C.A.S., N.C.S.P. School Psychologist Orange."— Presentation transcript:

1 A P EER C OACH (PC) T RANSITION P ROGRAM FOR S TUDENTS WITH A SPERGER S S YNDROME (AS) Kelly Eastman, M.S., C.A.S., N.C.S.P. School Psychologist Orange County Public Schools Orlando, FL Scott Merydith, Ph.D. Professor, Graduate Dept. of School Psychology Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY

2 T RANSITION PLANNING The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 mandates transition planning for students with disabilities. Effective transition planning/services are essential for students with disabilities to achieve post-school success, especially as the number of students with disabilities entering college after high school has increased.

3 T RANSITIONING TO POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION Students with disabilities are no longer protected under IDEIA after high school. Rather, their legal safeguard is limited to Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Reasonable accommodations (e.g., extended time on tests, class notes, alternate testing location, preferential course registration). Consequently, first-year college students with disabilities are often unprepared for the diverse standards and demands required of them and/or lack the social support necessary to be successful.

4 R EVIEW OF R ELATED L ITERATURE : NEED FOR PRESENT STUDY The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), particularly Aspergers Syndrome (AS), has increased in prevalence. Individuals with AS typically have: average to above average intelligence severe and sustained impairments in social interaction restrictive patterns of interests inflexible behavioral routines The number of students with AS attending postsecondary education is increasing, yet their unique needs go beyond what may be met by reasonable accommodations provided under Section 504.

5 R EVIEW OF R ELATED L ITERATURE : RATIONALE FOR PRESENT STUDY Research on the positive effects of social supports has been conducted on adolescents and young adults with ASDs. However, there is little to no research on the impact of peer support services, namely peer coaching, on students with AS who are transitioning to postsecondary education.

6 R EVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE : PURPOSE OF PRESENT STUDY Q uantitative and qualitative methods were used to: Explore and examine the experience of an intervention program on first and second- year undergraduate students with AS adaptation to college.

7 R EVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE : QUANTITATIVE R ESEARCH QUESTIONS EXAMINED Whether the students self-reported adaptation to college improved over the course of the academic year as they participated in the intervention program. Hypothesis: The longer the students participate in the intervention program, the more their self-reported adaptation to college would improve.

8 R EVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE : Q UALITATIVE R ESEARCH QUESTIONS EXPLORED Students adaptation to college via the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and experiences of the peer coaches: 1) What areas of adjustment and themes emerged and impacted students with AS adaptation and transition to college? 2) How these areas of adjustment and themes impacted students with AS adaptation and transition to college. 3) The perceived impact and effectiveness of the intervention on the students adaptation and transition to college.

9 M ETHODOLOGY (P ARTICIPANTS ) QUANTITATIVE : QUALITATIVE : 12 undergraduate college students Self-identified with AS Volunteered to participate in Spectrum Support Pilot (SSP) program 18 to 20 years old Freshmen and sophomores 8 (n = 1 female, n = 7 males) completed the following measure across two of three possible academic quarters 6 advanced, second-year School Psychology graduate students Recruited to be peer coaches Earned an hourly wage 23 to 25 years old All female 5 PCs whose participants completed the following measures across at least two of three possible quarters

10 M ETHODOLOGY ( MEASURES ) QUANTITATIVE : QUALITATIVE : Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) Norm-referenced, self- report measure Overall Adaptation to College (FS) Academic (AC) Adjustment Social (SA) Adjustment Personal-Emotional (PE) Adjustment Goal Commitment/ Institutional Attachment (AT) Peer Coach Questionnaire Informal, semi-structured questionnaire Seven open-ended questions Designed to explore their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, of the participants adaptation to college School Progress Classes dropped Major(s) changed School dismissal Retention in SSP program

11 M ETHODOLOGY (P ROCEDURE ) Archival data; coded anonymously Consent to participate in the SSP program was obtained from participants prior to start of school year PCs were trained and enrolled in a special topics course Participants were assigned a PC; two participants per PC Meetings/socials between PCs and participants were arranged

12 M ETHODOLOGY : PC - PARTICIPANT M EETINGS Once weekly for an hour; decreased in frequency/duration over time Routine and consistent schedule Informal and unstructured in nature 1:1 collaborative conversations with college students who had successfully navigated college life and demands Discuss questions and/or concerns that had surfaced since participants last PC meeting; typical issues addressed include: Academic behaviors, concerns, progress; informal/formal social interactions; time management skills; available academic support services; academic schedule; roommate situations and dorm life; self-advocacy; independent living skills/hygiene; and leisure pursuits

13 M ETHODOLOGY : PC S WEEKLY SUPERVISION PCs, school psychology faculty member, and Disability Services Office Once weekly for an hour; decreased in frequency/duration over time PCs submitted weekly progress notes, discussed participants transition issues, and collaboratively brainstormed strategies to address concerns Participants completed the SACQ at conclusion of each quarter PCs completed Peer Coach Questionnaire at conclusion of SSP program PCs discussed and complied school progress information throughout the course of, and at the conclusion of the SSP program

14 Q UANTITATIVE RESULTS : MEANS ANALYSIS / DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS OF SACQ All ratings of participants self-reported adaptation to college were within one standard deviation from the mean ( M =50, SD =10) and national average, given participants sex and quarter in college. Participants made no significant improvement in their adaptation to college over the course of the academic year as they participated in the peer coaching program.

15 Q UALITATIVE R ESULTS : PEER COACH QUESTIONNAIRE Responses to open-ended questionnaire were grouped together by item, read through to obtain a general sense of the material, assigned codes to specific text segments, and further coded for specific themes. Six themes emerged from PCs data and indicated transition difficulties for students with AS: 1. Organizational and time management skills 2. Flexibility and adaptability 3. Social and communication skills 4. Self-advocacy skills 5. Adaptive skills 6. Extra-curricular involvement

16 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 1. ORGANIZATIONAL AND TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS THEME Participants often: Failed to get enough sleep; attend class, meetings, and appointments consistently and on time; complete and turn-in assignments in a timely fashion; study for tests and courses; and plan ahead to complete their academic work Had difficulty understanding how their lack of academic effort impacted their overall academic performance Struggled to understand the impact of their decisions As a result, participants: Struggled academically Had difficulty keeping and attending peer coaching meetings, which impacted their involvement in the program

17 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 2. FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY THEME Participants often: Presented as inflexible to changes in their environment, routines, and others regulations and/or ways of doing things Had perfectionistic tendencies and engaged in absolute and rigid thinking patterns Preferred predictability Understood and expressed ideas most efficiently when presented with concrete and definite information Adversely impacted participants: Academics Socialization Personal-Emotional adjustment

18 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 3. SOCIAL AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS THEME Participants presented with limited or a complete lack of socialization and communication skills. Specifically, they had difficulty: Maintaining eye contact & facing their PC in conversation Appropriately beginning, continuing, ending, and adding to conversations Voluntarily divulging or elaborating on personal information Communicating with new peers without a script Navigating unexpected social situations Understanding social humor, sarcasm, multiple meanings, and abstractions in conversation Understanding what was appropriate in social situations

19 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 3. SOCIAL AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS THEME CONTINUED … Additionally, participants often: Lacked empathy Presented with a flat or inappropriate affect Spoke with little vocal intonation Communicated in a literal, event-oriented fashion Argued with others Lacked knowledge regarding social boundaries, social cues, and social etiquette Exerted minimal effort to maintain social relationships Presented as tongue-tied when dealing with simple questions Had difficulty remaining on-topic in conversation

20 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 4. SELF - ADVOCACY SKILLS THEME Participants had trouble advocating for themselves. Specifically: Asking for help (i.e., academic, social, and emotional) Accessing necessary supports and resources Communicating needs, wants, and preferences Standing up for themselves and their safety Consequently, participants relied on PCs for support/resources (e.g., tutoring, extra-curricular/club information, counseling support, transportation options, academic accommodations, etc.)

21 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 5. ADAPTIVE SKILLS THEME Participants often: Presented with poor hygiene Stayed up too late and did not receive enough sleep Struggled with anxiety, anger, and/or depression- related symptoms; consequently, they sought support from, or were referred to the counseling center on campus

22 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : 6. EXTRA - CURRICULAR INVOLVEMENT THEME Of the six participants who sought out involvement in extra-curricular activities: Three remained and enjoyed these activities Three discontinued their involvement in these activities due to disagreements or altercations with the groups members

23 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : PEER COACHES PERCEPTION OF THE EFFICACY OF THE SSP PROGRAM Overall, PCs believed the SSP program was helpful and beneficial for the participants. They felt the program accomplished two main tasks. Participants were provided with: Necessary resources and helpful information Peer support

24 Q UALITATIVE RESULTS : SCHOOL PROGRESS As reported by the PCs: Four participants dropped one or more classes due to failing grades. Two participants changed their majors due to failing grades within their major. All participants remained in college throughout the course of the year. All participants remained in the SSP program throughout the course of the year.

25 D ISCUSSION : SUMMARY OF MAJOR QUANTITATIVE FINDINGS Quantitative findings, along with previous research, indicate that: Peer support may positively impact and facilitate students with AS successful adaptation to college over time. Students with AS have the most difficulty in the areas of social and personal-emotional adjustment to college in their transition to postsecondary education.

26 D ISCUSSION : SUMMARY OF MAJOR QUALITATIVE FINDINGS Results coincide with previous research findings. Students with AS: Display challenges that interfere with their academic performance and overall functioning. Present with social, communication, and repetitive, restricted, and stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities. Lack self-advocacy, adaptive, organizational, and time management skills. Have difficulty joining or participating in extra-curricular activities or had no interest engaging in such activities. Benefited from positive social support.

27 D ISCUSSION : SUMMARY OF MAJOR QUALITATIVE FINDINGS Contrary to previous research findings (namely the DSM-IV-TRs clinical definition of AS): All peer coaches indicated that participants demonstrated substantial self-help and adaptive skill deficits that impacted their adaptation to college. Contrary to our quantitative findings that participants self-reported mean ratings of adaptation to college were within normal limits, our qualitative findings yielded different results.

28 S HAPING TRANSITION PLANNING AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL Assess and re-evaluate students adaptive and independent functioning skills annually. Identify students strengths/deficits; address how these will impact their transition to college. Identify and establish transition and postsecondary education goals. Provide direct, explicit instruction in identified areas of need. Create PC/mentoring programs to support students with AS. Facilitate high school to postsecondary setting visits. Provide student/parent trainings to communicate the importance of fostering adaptive/independent functioning skills. Encourage school involvement.

29 D EVELOPING A PC PROGRAM AT YOUR SCHOOL Who: Students diagnosed with ASD/AS and/or students enrolled in an ASD Special Education program School Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, Resource Teachers Peer Coaches/Mentors (i.e., possibly seniors and juniors enrolled in psychology courses) Parents/Guardians Disability Services Offices at colleges/universities Volunteers within the community (i.e., adjunct professors, experts in the area of ASD/AS, etc.)

30 D EVELOPING A PC PROGRAM AT YOUR SCHOOL What: Peer coach/mentor training and class Information on AS; knowledge of school system, available resources; foster communication and consultation skills; understanding/creation of transition plans; familiarity of challenges imposed by college Group Supervision/Mentoring Meetings Complete career assessments/reports and weekly progress notes and scales; problem-solve with mentors and staff to assist mentees with concerns/deficits; role development Mentee Meetings Relationship building; termination issues; goal setting; organization, time management, social, communication, self- advocacy, and independent-living skills; flexibility and adaptability; extra-curricular involvement; perspective-taking; sensory issues; homesickness; academic curriculum and social schedules; role playing; transitioning back from break Large group socials: All involved in the program

31 D EVELOPING A PC PROGRAM AT YOUR SCHOOL When: Mentoring Meetings: Frequency: Weekly contact (in person or via phone, , or text); gradual decrease over course of school year Intensity: 1:1 meetings and/or small group (2-3 mentees) Duration: 1 hour; gradual decrease over course of school year Mentee Meetings: Frequency: Weekly contact (in person); gradual decrease over course of school year Intensity: mentors and staff involved in class Duration: TBD depending on time available Where: In-school and/or after-school program

32 W HAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE TRANSITION TO COLLEGE The W-Curve: Predictable pattern of stages Occur when a person experiences culture shock and/or adapts to a new culture (such as college) May be applied to first-year college students Typical to have the ups and downs of the W-Curve; knowing about this may help make the transition to college easier. If parents and students see and understand that this is just part of the journey and everyone goes through it, they may be better able to take it all in stride.


34 H ONEYMOON P HASE Usually begins: Before students first arrive on campus Once a student has chosen and been accepted to a college Builds : During Orientation As students are assigned housing As students begin planning for school to start Feelings: Excitement, positive anticipation, strong sense of welcoming from college community, freedom, exhilaration, strong positive feeling, responsibility for own lifestyle, some homesickness mixed in with all of the fun and energy of a new beginning.

35 C ULTURAL S HOCK P HASE Newness begins to wear off; freshmen begin dealing with the reality of adjustments and their reactions to such. Residence halls, social process/interdependence with peers, academic demands, daily living tasks, becoming self-sufficient, establishing own identity, accepting responsibility for actions, reworking relationships with parents, and dealing with separation Feelings: Conflicting values, drained, dissonant, frustrated, homesick, and self-sufficient Period of potential positive change, but also a period of more intense personal conflict and anxiety

36 I NITIAL A DJUSTMENT PHASE Freshmen experience an upswing as they have successfully managed issues that have come their way. Simply overcoming the culture shock stage brings about a sense of well being. Fall into a routine as they gain confidence in their ability to handle the academic and social environment of college. Feel they have regained some sense of control and normalcy in their lives. Conflicts and challenges continue to come and go; however, students feel more in the swing of things.

37 M ENTAL I SOLATION P HASE Second culture shock Relapse; sense of isolation; comparison made between new culture and more familiar home culture. May arise after an extended break (between semesters) Feelings: Doubt about attending college and/or the right college; questioning major and academic potential; stress ; tension ; homesickness ; caught between two worlds (i.e., college environment not as comfortable as home used to be, and home not as familiar as it once was); sense of not fully belonging in either place; shocking ; upsetting Overcoming this phase: Seek resolution, move away from negative feelings, and join universitys culture. Requires integrating the values and beliefs of home culture with new university environment.

38 A CCEPTANCE, I NTEGRATION, AND C ONNECTEDNESS P HASE Begin feeling a true connection to campus community Involved in campus opportunities, gain history with new friends, get to know faculty and staff members More balanced and realistic view of the university; see and integrate the good experiences with the challenges. Generally, it's a pretty good place to be The university becomes home. Original home culture becomes somewhat foreign. Less dependence on parents and former peers. True sense of acceptance, integration, and connectedness occurs when a student has successfully adapted to their new world.

39 REFERENCES Adreon, D., & Durocher, J. S. (2007). Evaluating the college transition needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(5), Adreon, D., & Stella, J. (2001). Transition to middle and high school: Increasing the success of participants with asperger syndrome. Intervention in School and Clinic, 36(5), American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved November 4, 2008, from Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (3 rd. Ed.). Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: Pearson. Dillon, M. R. (2007). Creating supports for college participants with asperger syndrome through collaboration. College Student Journal, 41(2),

40 REFERENCES Hillier, A., Fish, T., Cloppert, P., & Beversdorf, D. Q. (2007). Outcomes of a social and vocational support group for adolescents on the autism spectrum. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(2), Howlin, P., & Yates, P. (1999). The potential effectiveness of social skills groups for adults with autism. Autism, 3, Jekel, D., & Loo, S. (2002). So you want to go to college: Recommendations, helpful tips, and suggestions, for success at college. Watertown, MA: Aspergers Association of New England. Mesibov, G. B. (1984). Social skills training with verbal autistic adolescents and adults: A program model. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 14, Myles, B. S., & Adreon, D. (2001). Asperger syndrome and adolescence: Practical solutions for school success. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing. Ozonoff, S., & Miller, J. N. (1995). Teaching theory of mind: A new approach to social skills training for individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25,

41 REFERENCES Rosenwald, L., & Hultgren, S. (2003). More college tips. In S. Hultgren (Ed.), CT autism spectrum resource guide. Hamden, CT: Autism Spectrum Resource Center. Siperstein, G. N. (1988). Participants with learning disabilities in college: The need for a programmatic approach to critical transitions. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, Sitlington, P. L. (2003). Postsecondary education: The other transition. Exceptionality, 11(2), Smith, C. P. (2007). Support services for participants with aspergers syndrome in higher education. College Student Journal, 41(3), Weidle, B., Bolme, B., & Hoeyland, A. L. (2006). Are peer support groups for adolescents with aspergers syndrome helpful? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11, Zeller, W. J. & Mosier, R. (1993). Culture shock and the first-year experience. Journal of College and University Student Housing, 23(2).


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