Program

Jun 04, 2013

OVERVIEW

The peer-mediated social skills intervention aims to indirectly improve the social skills of elementary school children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by training peer models in socially engaging isolated peers.  An experimental evaluation of this program has found significant impacts on social network salience, playground engagement, number of friends, and teacher-reported social skills in the target child with ASD by the end of the intervention.  These impacts were no longer significant at 3-month follow-up.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM


Target Population:
Elementary school children with ASD and their peers.

The peer-mediated social skills intervention for elementary school children with ASD works indirectly through peers to promote social interaction.  Teachers identify three typically developing children from the classroom of a target child with ASD to serve as peer models.  The peer models meet with a trained interventionist for 20 minutes twice a week for 6 weeks to learn appropriate ways to engage peers with social difficulties.  The interventionist instructs the peer models in how to identify isolated children, engage them in group play, and lend social support.  This intervention is  indirect, as the target child with ASD is never expressly identified.  While the target child is not disclosed, this intervention aims to promote social skills in the target child through the increased social competency of the peer models.

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. In total, 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 by class into 4 conditions: (1) Child-assisted intervention (LIZ – insert CHILD link here), (2) Peer-mediated intervention, (3) Child and Peer assisted intervention (LIZ – insert PEER + CHILD link here), and (4) waitlist control.  The 3 selected classmates in the peer-mediated intervention met in a group format 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 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 had a significant positive impact on children’s social network salience at the end of treatment, although this outcome was not significant at follow-up.  The peer-assisted social intervention also had a significant impact on the reduction of solitary playground play and a marginally significant impact on time spent playing with peers.  This intervention had positive impacts on teacher-reported social skills and on the number of peers who listed the target child as a friend at the end of treatment, but not at follow-up.  No other secondary outcomes showed significant impacts.

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.

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.