Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2372–2384 | Cite as

Evaluation of a Decision-Making Curriculum for Teaching Adolescents with Disabilities to Resist Negative Peer Pressure

  • Ishita KhemkaEmail author
  • Linda Hickson
  • Sarah B. Mallory
Original Paper


This study was designed to assess the impact of a decision-making curriculum (PEER-DM) on the social peer relationship knowledge and self-protective decision-making skills of adolescents with disabilities in hypothetical situations involving negative peer pressure. A randomized design was used to assign students with disabilities from self-contained special education classes to an intervention group (n = 22) or a wait-list control group (n = 20). ANCOVA analyses, using pretest scores as covariates, indicated that students who were trained on PEER-DM had significantly higher effective decision-making action and correct risk perception scores, relative to participants in the control group. This study provides supporting evidence that PEER-DM is a promising intervention for students with disabilities, including those with identified autism spectrum disorders, during transition years to help them develop a better understanding of positive and negative peer relationships and learn systematic decision-making skills for improved handling of social situations in the school and community, especially situations involving negative peer pressure. The study adds credence to using systematic, strategy-based decision making interventions designed to address the cognitive, emotional and motivational processes underlying adolescent decision making in sensitive interpersonal situations involving peer pressure. The study points to the lack of preparedness to handle situations of negative peer pressure as a serious social and health risk for adolescents with disabilities that deserves urgent and concerted attention in transition services programming. Implications for future curriculum-development efforts and replication of treatment findings are discussed. Future research examining disability-specific patterns of decision-making in peer situations and comparisons with typically developing populations is recommended.


Negative peer pressure Curriculum intervention Decision making Adolescents with disabilities Autism spectrum disorders 



We would like to thank Sarah Allen, Danielle Bartlett, Barbara Giaquinto, Hillary Krinick, Amanda Mazin, Jennifer Singer, and Ruth Zealand for their assistance in conducting this study.

Author Contributions

Conceived research study, developed curriculum, analyzed data and wrote the paper: Ishita Khemka and Linda Hickson. Prepared materials, collected data, implemented curriculum training, and analyzed pilot data: Sarah B. Mallory.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ishita Khemka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Linda Hickson
    • 2
  • Sarah B. Mallory
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Education Specialties, School of EducationSt. John’s UniversityQueensUSA
  2. 2.Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, College of EducationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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