College Students' Responses to the Social Behavior of Peers with Autism Spectrum Disorder
College students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) commonly experience strainedsocial relationships with typically developing (TD) peers. This is often attributed to the individual with ASD’s social skills deficits, which are central to a diagnosis of ASD. Yet, the manner in which TD peers receive and respond to individuals with ASD is also predictive of social interaction outcomes. The present study investigated the relation between TD college students’ perceptions of ASD and the TD peers’ willingness to interact socially with a peer with ASD. The current study hypothesized that the relation between predictor variables: TD peers’ quality of previous contact, perceptions of controllability, and perceptions of responsibility and criterion variables: attitudes about ASD and willingness to interact with individuals with ASD, would be mediated by the peers’ affective responses to individuals with ASD. Results indicated that positive affect mediated the relations between quality of previous contact and positive attitudes and willingness to interact, whereas there was no association between perceived controllability or perceived responsibility and positive affect, positive attitudes, or willingness to interact. These results demonstrate that having more positive previous experiences with individuals with ASD and more positive in-the-moment affective responses toward an individual with ASD are associated with holding more positive attitudes toward and more willingness to interact with someone with ASD.