The Effectiveness of Peer Supports for Students with Severe Disabilities in Inclusive Work-Based Settings
2017-10-31T00:00:00Z (GMT) by
Peer-mediated interventions are evidence-based practices that have demonstrated to improve academic and social skills of students with severe disabilities and their peers without disabilities while working in academic and non-academic classrooms (Carter, Cushing, Clark, & Kennedy, 2005; Cushing & Kennedy, 1997). However, little is known about the effects of peer-mediated interventions on vocational and employability skills of students with severe disabilities and their peers in work-based learning settings. Students with severe disabilities do not necessarily learn vocational and employability skills in high school that can be applied to future employment (Agran, Hughes, Thoma, & Scott, 2016). They may also have limited access to inclusive vocational education or work-based learning settings in high school to learn, work, and practice skills with peers without disabilities (Guy, Sitlington, Laresen, & Frank, 2009). Moreover, inclusion in general education settings with peers without disabilities is predictive of later transition success for students with severe disabilities (Test et al., 2009). Therefore, students with severe disabilities should be learning all skills alongside their same-aged peers in inclusive school environments. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of peer-mediated interventions on the independent engagement in work tasks and social interactions of students with severe disabilities and their peers in a high school work-based learning setting. Furthermore, this study evaluated the quality of and the number of social interactions during work activities of both students with and without severe disabilities. A multiple baseline research design across participants with generalization probes investigated work task independence and social interaction outcomes for five dyads of high school students. Dyads were comprised of one student with severe disabilities and one peer without disabilities. The work-based activity involved collecting classroom and office recycling in the high school. Peers were trained on research-based peer support strategies to implement when working with the student with severe disabilities during the work-based activity. Results revealed moderate to significant level changes between baseline and intervention phases across all dyads for increased work task independence and social interactions. Furthermore, the quality of social interactions improved after implementing the peer supports training for most dyads as well as increases were noted in the number of social initiations made by the students with severe disabilities to socialize with their peers. With this study, the success of peer-mediated interventions has been demonstrated by the increase in vocational skills and social interactions for students with severe disabilities when working in inclusive employment settings. This study is the first to use peer-mediated interventions in a high school work-based learning setting. The findings, therefore, substantiate the peer-mediated interventions research that show improved academic, social, and vocational skills for students with severe disabilities in inclusive settings. In addition, it indicates that peer-mediated interventions can be used to increase employability skills necessary for future employment. Implications for practice, research, and study limitations are presented.