A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2017 | Number 3, Volume 31

Peer mentoring helps students with ASD navigate college

Peer mentoring can benefit college students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to new research. 

Choo Ting Siew and colleagues evaluated the effects of one semester of one-on-one peer mentoring on 10 young adults with ASD attending a university in Australia. Participants received mentoring from postgraduate students with backgrounds in psychology, speech pathology, occupational therapy, or social work. 

The researchers administered a battery of tests to the participants before and after the semester, and conducted semi-structured interviews at the end of the semester. They report that overall, participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the program. The researchers add, “They also reported increased perceived social support and decreased general communication apprehension following participation in [the program].” 

Interviews with participants found that they appreciated having constant, stable support from peers. In addition, they enjoyed the flexible, individualized assistance their mentors provided. 

While students with ASD often struggle in college, the students in the mentoring program passed nearly 94% of their academic assessments and achieved “distinction” or “high distinction” on nearly 63% of their assessments. Their failure rate was only 2.9%. All study participants re-enrolled in the second semester. 

The researchers caution that their findings are preliminary, and involve only a small number of individuals. However, they note that York University in Canada and Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K., which offer peer mentoring programs for students with ASD, are also seeing promising results.


“A specialist peer mentoring program for university students on the autism spectrum: a pilot study,” Choo Ting Siew, Trevor G. Mazzucchelli, Rosanna Rooney, and Sonya Girdler, PLOS ONE, July 13, 2017 (online). Address not listed.