Many university-based services for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have incorporated peer mentorship programs; however, the research on the success of these programs to increase social engagement is extremely limited. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of a peer mentor program, both alone and combined with an incentive program, on increasing the social engagement of college students with ASD. Additionally, the perceptions of college students with ASD were also examined to determine potential barriers to participate in these social events.
A component analysis was used to determine what intervention component or combination of components, was most effective in increasing the social engagement among college students with ASD. The number of students during each component was totaled and averaged across the number of social events held during that phase. A survey regarding barriers to social engagement was also provided.
Results suggest that both the peer mentor program alone, as well as the peer mentor program in conjunction with an incentive program, were effective at increasing students’ attendance at weekly supervised social events. Results from the survey regarding barriers to social engagement revealed that the majority of students reported difficulties managing time to fit social events into their schedule.