Youth with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often require additional supports during the period of transition to from high school to post-secondary education or career paths. Peer mentorship programs create opportunities to support youth with ASD in identifying their personal, academic, and career goals after graduating from high school, however there is limited insight about the components of these programs that are valued by both participants and peer mentors and that are perceived to contribute to the overall success of a program in achieving their goals. Our objective was to identify, describe and synthesize the components of peer mentorship programs valued by youth with ASD and their peer mentors, as well as to document their experiences in these transitional support services.
A meta-ethnography was conducted to synthesize qualitative and mixed methods studies of PM programs for youth with ASD. A systematic search of seven databases yielded 142 non-duplicate articles. Data analysis and synthesis involved: 1) extraction of raw data; 2) extraction of study authors’ interpretations, followed by inductive coding; 3) synthesis of key themes; and 4) schematic diagram development to illustrate the relationship of themes.
10 studies of PM programs from Canada (2), United States (4), Australia (3), and United Kingdom (1) were included. Extracted data reflected experiences of 131 mentees and 82 mentors. The essential program components identified were: 1) mentorship; 2) skill building; 3) peer group; and 4) facilitating transition.
Peer mentorship characterized by clear communication and connection between mentors and mentees was valuable to the success of the program. Peer mentors played an essential role to facilitate the positive experiences that mentees had with program components, including interactions with peer groups. Successful PM programs created a safe environment for mentees to practice skills, and help mentees gain confidence to expand their roles to take leadership in their learning.
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