An Examination of the Social Relationships of High School Students with Autism in General Education Settings Using Peer Nomination Methods

  • Nicole L. MatthewsEmail author
  • Erin Rotheram-Fuller
  • Beatriz C. Orr
  • Katrina Warriner
  • Mary DeCarlo
  • Jessica Kogan
  • Christopher J. Smith
Original Paper


Despite considerable research on school social experiences among younger children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), little is known about the classroom social relationships of high school students with ASD without intellectual disability. Additional research in this area is necessary to refine and develop social skills interventions and outcome measures of social success for this age group. The current study compared peer nomination variables between 10 high school students with ASD and randomly selected gender-matched samples of their general education classmates at three time points over two academic years. All students attended schools in the Southwestern USA. Across all three time points, students with ASD were less accepted by their peers compared to their general education classmates. Among participants with ASD, social difficulties appeared to be most pervasive at the third time point. Findings suggest that some of the difficulties associated with establishing peer relationships documented among children and young adolescents with ASD are also present during high school. Feasibility of peer nomination methods in high school settings is discussed. Findings have implications for researchers, school psychologists, educators, and stakeholders, including individuals with ASD and their parents.


Autism spectrum disorder High school students Adolescents Peer relationships Sociometric status Social network clustering 



We would like to thank the families who participated in this study, the teachers and staff at the schools and school districts in which data were collected, and the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center staff and research assistants who contributed to participant intake assessments, data collection, and data entry. This study was funded by the 2014 Organization for Autism Research Applied Research Grant.


This study was funded by the 2014 Organization for Autism Research Applied Research Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southwest Autism Research and Resource CenterPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Mary Lou Fulton Teachers CollegeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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