FAU Study First to Show Peer-Mediated Interventions to Teach Navigation Skills to College Students With IDD

Student navigates using smart phone with Google Maps.

by Teresa Crane | Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020

This study is the first to provide research on peer-mediated interventions to teach navigation skills to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Data from the study, published in The Journal of Special Education, shows potential for a peer-mediated instructional package to teach student mastery of Google MapsTM to negotiate a university campus.

For the study, Kelly B. Kearney, Ed.D., BCBA-D, lead author and visiting instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Exceptional Student Education, and ESE faculty, Brianna Joseph, Ed.D., Lisa Finnegan, Ph.D., and Jacqueline Wood, M.Ed., combined the power of peer-mediated instruction and technology to teach college students with IDD to navigate campus grounds. A peer student who was familiar with using the Google MapsTM app trained to model total task presentation by steps and error correction using least to most prompting. Then a study was designed to determine the effectiveness of a peer-mediated instructional package to teach three college students with IDD to use a navigation app on their smartphone to travel the campus on foot. Post peer-mediation was also examined to analyze to what extent the skills were maintained.

“College campuses have recently discovered a new diversity -- students who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities who are now able to access higher education. These students benefit from the college experience, but only if they can access the full range of classes, faculty support, and peer experiences,” said Michael Brady, Ph.D., ESE Chair and Professor. “The findings of the navigation study by Dr. Kearney and her colleagues at FAU demonstrate that students with IDD can learn to use a common technology app to increase the value of their college educational opportunities.”

Results showed all students acquired the skills with 100% accuracy and maintained skills once the instructional package was removed. Social validity data indicated that students thoroughly enjoyed learning the skill from the peer mediator. Prior studies have been designed around researchers teaching a student with an intellectual disability to successfully navigate using technology. Furthermore, studies have demonstrated the ability of peers with disabilities to successfully teach other students with developmental disabilities acquisition skills. This is the first known study that employed a peer-mediator to teach specific navigation skills to young adults with IDD.

Additional research is needed to replicate this study across different populations with larger sample sizes. There is a scarcity of literature on peer-mediated interventions to teach college students with IDD self-advocacy skills, self-determination skills, and employability skills. More research is needed to examine the impact of using peer-mediation instruction to teach college students with IDD skills for success on campus and in the community.  

“Many students use their mobile technology as they walk around campus. Using smartphones to navigate the campus is just another way students with IDD are exemplifying a typical college experience,” said Kearney.

The students from this study are enrolled in an inclusive college program for high school graduates diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They learned to successfully use Google maps to get around campus, displaying no social difference than any other typical college student walking around with smart phone-in-hand.


Kelly B. Kearney, Ed.D., BCBA-D, Brianna Joseph, Ed.D., Lisa Finnegan, Ph.D. & Jacqueline Wood, M.Ed.(2020, July 5) Using a peer-mediated instructional package to teach college students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to navigate an inclusive university campus. The Journal of Special Education, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022466920937469