Program

Jun 04, 2013

OVERVIEW

The child-assisted social skills intervention is a direct instruction intervention designed to promote social skills development in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  This intervention is delivered by a trained professional who works individually with a child with ASD based on the child’s social strengths and weaknesses.  While this intervention has shown marginal impacts on social network salience, it has not shown significant impacts on playground engagement or teacher-reported social skills.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM


Target Population:
Elementary school children with ASD

The child-assisted social skills intervention is designed to provide direct social skills training to elementary school children with ASD.  The intervention is delivered by a trained interventionist and consists of didactic instruction, role playing, and skills practice.  Following an assessment, social skills are targeted one at a time, based on the current social strengths and weaknesses of the individual child.  As skills are mastered, new skills are introduced.  Children meet with the interventionist for 20 minutes twice a week for 6 weeks.  This program aims to help children with ASD develop strategies to socially engage with their peers.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Kasari, C., Rotheram-Fuller, E., Locke, J., & Gulsrud, A. (2012). Making the connection: Randomized controlled trial of social skills at school for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 431-439. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02493.x

Evaluated Population:  The sample consisted of 60 children with ASD from 56 classrooms in the Los Angeles area.  Children ranged in grade level from first to fifth grade, and 47 percent were Caucasian, 5 percent were African American, 22 percent were Latino, 17 percent were Asian, and 10 percent were “other.”  The sample was mostly male (90 percent), and the average age was 8 years old.  The classmates and teachers of the children with ASD also participated in this study, as they reported on the social standing and skills of the target child. A total of 815 typically developing classmates participated.

Approach:  Children were included in the study if they met criteria for ASD, were fully included in a regular classroom, were 6-11 years old, were in 1st through 5th grade, had an IQ ≥ 65, and had no additional diagnoses.  The sample was individually randomized into 4 conditions: (1) Child-assisted intervention, (2) Peer-mediated intervention (JILL– insert PEER link here), (3) Child and Peer assisted intervention (JILL – insert PEER + CHILD link here), and (4) waitlist control.  Children in the child-assisted intervention met with the interventionist for 20 minutes twice weekly for 6 weeks during lunch or recess.  For details regarding the other intervention conditions, please see the links above.

The primary outcomes of interest were social network salience (SNS), which indicates the prominence of a child within the classroom social network, and peer engagement.  SNS was collected from each child in the target child’s classroom.  Peer engagement was measured using playground observations conducted by independent, blinded observers.  Secondary outcomes included teacher-reported social skills and other social network variables such as reciprocal friendships, received friendship nominations, outward friendship nominations, and received rejections.  All outcomes were measured prior to intervention, at the end of the 6 week intervention, and 3 months following the intervention.  The data were analyzed at the child level as the majority of the sample only had one child per classroom (52 out of 56 classrooms).  The only significant difference found between conditions prior to intervention was the number of females in each group, with 5 of the 6 female participants assigned to the peer-mediated intervention.

Results:  This intervention showed a marginally significant impact on improvement in social network salience at the end of treatment, although that impact was not maintained at the 3-month follow-up.  This intervention did not show any significant impacts on playground engagement.  No significant impacts were found on secondary outcomes.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Kasari, C., Rotheram-Fuller, E., Locke, J., & Gulsrud, A. (2012). Making the connection: Randomized controlled trial of social skills at school for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 431-439. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02493.x

Contact Information

Connie Kasari, Ph.D.

University of California

760 Westwood Plaza

Los Angeles, CA 900024

Email: kasari@gseis.ucla.edu

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (Co-ed), School-based, Skills Training, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 10/16/12.