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Services for Students at Seneca Experiencing ASD

Seneca College is working with UCLA in the development of an exciting new program for young adults experiencing Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Seneca College Counselling and Accessibility Services staff were successful in receiving funding for a research project through the Ontario College Counsellors. This funding allowed for the training of 3 staff to deliver a program developed by Dr. Liz Laugeson at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Having had success with younger populations, this program is being tested for its effectiveness with young adults (aged 18-30). The “Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills” (PEERS®) is a well-researched program that has been delivered to children and teens with many publications in professional and peer-refereed journals to confirm its effectiveness. Our participation with UCLA will help to confirm that the benefits of this program will extend to an adult age group. The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills for Young Adults (PEERSYAP) is a 16-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated young adults (Ages 18-30) who experience ASD and are interested in learning ways to help make and keep friends.

We are looking forward to starting the program here at Newnham Campus in September.

Background Information -The PEERS for Young Adults Program


  • The PEERS for Young Adults Program (PEERSYAP) trains young adults in ecologically valid and necessary communication and socialization skills that help them to find and keep a friend. There is weekly participative homework which must be done by the young adult so they can benefit from what is being learned in each session.
  • Coach/Parent/Partner participation is required. These coaches are taught how to assist the young adults in making and keeping friends by providing feedback through social coaching during weekly socialization homework assignments. The coach/parent/partner functions as a social and communication skills coach by helping the young adult to remember and practice the skills learned in each session.
  • Enrollment is limited to about 10 young adult and coach pairs. Classes are once weekly for 1.5 hours face to face. Regular attendance is imperative.
  • Based on previous research on PEERS® programs, it is expected that individuals who fully participate in the program will improve their communication and social interaction skills both in finding and keeping a friend and in general social interaction skills potentially including home, classroom, and workplace.


  • Finding and keeping a friend has proven positive effects in promoting health. Individuals who have friendships are recognized to live longer and to experience less anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that postsecondary students in the GTA who experience ASD are more likely than their neurotypical peers to experience relationship exploitation in social interactions across both genders. They generally do not have an extensive network of friends. For the most part, their neurotypical peers get such relationship information from friends and as such are less likely to experience relationship exploitation. Friends can be a protective factor for the post-secondary young adults and save them from exploitation.
  • Bullying is another issue where individuals experiencing ASD are victimized in great part due to their inability to effectively communicate and socialize. Developing and maintaining friendships is a known factor in reducing or preventing bullying.
  • Professors frequently comment on the demands of the student experiencing ASD as these students have difficulty with communication and social skills. The identified issues range from asking too many questions in class to being accused of stalking classmates. Participation in the PEERS program will move toward addressing and reducing these problems.
  • The skills learned in this group will also prove beneficial to the placement, practicum and/or work experience of postsecondary students.
  • Participation in this group training/counselling intervention may prevent behavioural, mental health and interpersonal issues from developing and result in less distress for the students involved. In turn this would result in a more successful, more engaged student who is less likely to be a drain on college resources, and more likely to graduate from their program.

Examples of Topics To Be Covered:

  • How to use appropriate conversational skills
  • How to find common interests by trading information
  • How to appropriately use humor
  • How to enter and exit conversations between peers
  • How to handle rejection, teasing, and bullying
  • How to be a good host during get-togethers
  • How to choose appropriate friends
  • How to be a good sport
  • How to handle arguments and disagreements
  • How to deal with peer pressure
  • Flirting/Dating/Relationship etiquette/skills

For more information about the PEERS for Young Adults Program, contact Dr. David Johnston or Kevin Reinhardt, Counselling and Accessibility Services office at Newnham 416-491-5050 ext. 22900.