Online peer mentorship programs for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disabilities: A systematic review.

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Online peer mentorship programs for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disabilities: A systematic review.

Child Care Health Dev. 2019 Nov 29;:

Authors: Saxena S, Mitchell J, Ehsan A, Majnemer A, Shikako-Thomas K

BACKGROUND: Children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disabilities may be less well integrated into their community than their peers. Online groups can be particularly accessible for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, as individuals may be able to connect with a larger network than they would in their local community. This systematic review aimed at estimating the effectiveness of online peer mentorship programs on children and adolescent’s participation in life situations.
METHODS: A systematic review was conducted to search Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL and Education Research Complete (ERIC) electronic databases. Thematic analysis was done for studies that used qualitative methodology.
RESULTS: 11 articles were included and they examined the influences of five different structured online peer mentorship intervention programs and six different online support groups. The disabilities included cerebral palsy (n=3), autism spectrum disorder (n=3), spina bifida (n=2), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (n=2), and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The mentors included in the studies were caregivers of children with disabilities, youth and adults with disabilities, and a virtual peer actor. The mentees included in the studies were youth with disabilities (age 10-19 years) and their families. Intervention characteristics varied across the studies, but consistently showed a unique potential to facilitate social networking and support. Intervention programs with specific content and structure showed better participation outcomes than unstructured interventions. Presence of a moderator and participant characteristics (age, socio-cultural background) were suggested to influence the outcomes of interventions.
CONCLUSIONS: Online peer mentorship programs appear to have positive influence on social engagement and participation in life situation for children and adolescents with disabilities. This paper discusses several areas which should be considered in future research studies to improve potential effectiveness, and use of study designs that help to establish not only if interventions work, but for whom they work best and why.

PMID: 31782542 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]