Use of peer-mediated intervention in children with ADHD

An article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis last year (Fall 2010; 43(3):547-51) describes an attempt to modify out-of-seat and disruptive behavior in three boys with ADHD by training peers how to ignore off-task behavior while rewarding on-task/appropriate behavior. Here’s the abstract of the experiment:

The present experiment extended and replicated the use of functional analysis and a peer-mediated intervention to decrease disruptive behavior displayed by children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in an afterschool program. After determining that the participants displayed off-task behavior maintained by peer attention via a functional analysis, peer-implemented differential reinforcement of other behavior with extinction was effective in reducing participants’ off-task behaviors. The use of peers as behavior-change agents is discussed, as are avenues for future research.

Although the authors, Grauvogel-MacAleese and Wallace, did obtain significant results, they note the difficulties even in a short-term intervention and the difficulties that might be encountered using this approach in a classroom setting.

That said, the data suggest that for some children, peer attention really may be a significant factor contributing to maintenance of undesirable behavior. Would having teachers spend a bit more time teaching peers how to respond to others’ off-task or out-of-seat behavior help reduce problems in the classroom? After reading this study, I think it’s an intriguing idea worthy of further exploration.

If you’d like, you can access the full study at PubMed in either html or pdf format.