Efficacy and social validity of peer network interventions for high school students with severe disabilities

Jennifer M. Asmus, Erik W. Carter, Colleen K. Moss, Elizabeth E. Biggs, Daniel M. Bolt, Tiffany L. Born, Kristen Bottema-Beutel, Matthew E. Brock, Gillian N. Cattey, Molly Cooney, Ethan S. Fesperman, Julia M. Hochman, Heartley B. Huber, Jenna L. Lequia, Gregory L. Lyons, Lori B. Vincent, Katie Weir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of peer network interventions to improve the social connections of 47 high school students with severe disabilities. School staff invited, trained, and supported 192 peers without disabilities to participate in individualized social groups that met throughout one semester. Compared to adolescents in the "business-as-usual" control group (n = 48), students receiving peer networks gained significantly more new social contacts and friendships. Although many peer relationships maintained one and two semesters later, their spill over beyond the school day was limited. Students and staff affirmed the social validity of the interventions. We offer recommendations for research and practice aimed at improving the implementation and impact of peer network interventions in secondary schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-137
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican journal on intellectual and developmental disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • Autism
  • High school
  • Intellectual disability
  • Peer-mediated intervention
  • Social relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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