Enhancing Peer Network Interventions for Students With Complex Communication Needs

Elizabeth E. Biggs, Erik W. Carter, Jennifer L. Bumble, Kelli Barnes, Erica L. Mazur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Educators need effective ways to build the communication skills of students learning to use aided augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and support their interactions with peers. This study used a multiple-probe-across-participants design to evaluate the effectiveness of a paraprofessional-facilitated peer network intervention to (a) increase peer interaction for students with complex communication needs and (b) investigate whether embedding peer-implemented aided AAC modeling within the intervention would increase students’ use of symbolic communication (i.e., aided AAC, signs, speech). Participants were four elementary-age students with intellectual disability or autism who used a speech-generating device or communication book. The peer network increased students’ overall interactions with peers but not their symbolic communication. Teaching peers to use aided AAC modeling through brief training and coaching resulted in increasing students’ use of symbolic communication within interactions with peers. Implications are offered related to supporting peer interaction, improving symbolic communication skills, and involving peers in social-communication interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-85
Number of pages20
JournalExceptional Children
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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