Peer-mediated Instruction & Intervention

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One of the main characteristics of autism is social communication challenges.

Individuals on the autism spectrum can benefit from working with peers.

This strategy is referred to as peer-mediated instruction and intervention.

This post shares what peer-mediated instruction and interventions are and how you can use them.

Peer-mediated Instruction and Intervention is an evidence-based practice for individuals on the autism spectrum.

You can get more in-depth training about how to use them with Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM), a free resource offered by the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Peer-mediated instruction and intervention is one of 27 identified evidence-based practices.

Related reading: Autism Evidence-Based Practices


There are many different terms associated with peer-mediated instruction and intervention.

Some include peer modeling, peer initiation training, direct training for target student and peer, peer networks, and peer supports.

In the definition provided by AFIRM, peer-mediated instruction and intervention is teaching peers without disabilities a system of engaging individuals with ASD in positive and meaningful social interactions.

Like many other social communication methods in autism, this strategy is based on behaviorism and social learning theory.

By involving systematic teaching to peer without disabilities ways of engaging individuals with ASD in positive and meaningful social interactions, these will be modeled and practiced by individuals with ASD as well.

There are five categories of peer-mediated instruction and interventions that we will dive into: (1) peer modeling, (2) peer initiation training, (3) direct training for target student and peer, (4) peer networks, and (5) peer supports.

The majority of these categories have been used with younger children on the spectrum.

Peer networks and peer supports have shown evidence for use with adolescents and in high schools.


In peer modeling, you can train peers to demonstrate a target skill to an individual with ASD.

Some examples include greetings, asking for help, and joining an activity.


In peer initiation training, you can train peers to use strategies and interact with individuals with ASD in natural settings (e.g., classroom, lunch).

Some examples include responding to invites, maintaining conversations, and turn-taking in conversations.


In direct raining, you can teach peers and the individual with ASD the specific target skill you’re working on.

Some examples include initiating conversations, perspective taking, and accepting “no” as an answer.


In peer networks, you create times and facilitate meetings in which peers interact with the individual on the autism spectrum.

I’ve typically seen these as lunch bunch meetings, an afterschool activity, or even something before school.

Peer Networks are often implemented in middle and high school and give more opportunities for the teen with ASD to join a peer group with some structure

if needed and promotes their social network and connections with others during the school day.

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In peers supports, you organize and provide an environment for peers to provide social and academic support for the individual with ASD.

These are commonly held in classrooms where group work is more commonplace, and also in other classes like PE where students with more supports are included in the class or peers are brought in to help prepare for Special Olympics.


As we know, many individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty with social interactions, including their back-and-forth nature or social reciprocity.

They also initiate social interactions less frequently, respond less frequently to social initiations, and engage in shorter interactions.

As a result and of possibly the appearance of other repetitive and restricted behaviors, individuals on the autism spectrum tend to have limited occasions to have meaningful social interactions with other peers.

Therefore, they have fewer opportunities to develop and practice social skills.

Peer-mediated instruction and intervention can be used to address a variety of needs and goals, including the following:

  • Teach peers without disabilities ways they can interact with peers with ASD and others who are different from them

  • Increase opportunities for individuals with ASD to interact with peers

  • Expand social interactions across activities and settings

  • Enhance positive and meaningful social interactions

  • Minimize teacher and adult support

  • Facilitate participation and engagement in activities


Peer-mediated instruction and intervention is used by families and a variety of professionals including teachers, special educators, paraprofessionals, and therapists.

There are a number of resources available on the AFIRM website to help you with planning the specific type of peer-mediated instruction and intervention you’re interested in.

Here is the step-by-step process of selecting and using PMII.

  1. Identify the event/activity/behavior that your child could benefit from peer-mediated instruction and intervention (PMII)

  2. Identify the type of PMII

  3. Create the PMII based on:

    1. Your learner with ASD’s characteristics and preferences as well as peers you can invite

  4. Train the peers as you facilitate the PMII

  5. Use the PMII consistently (use each time they are in that activity)

  6. Take notes & monitor how the PMII is used (you can jot down a few notes each time it’s used to see how long it is used, how many prompts you gave)

What is a peer-mediated instruction and intervention you use or would like to try out? Share in the Autism Grown Up Facebook Community - let’s chat!