Description: Therapy sessions that provide didactic instruction to high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders on social skills.

Examples: Social skills training, Theory of Mind Training, summer camp program

Research Summary: Preliminary evidence indicates that high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders who participate in social skills groups may increase their awareness of social cues and their understanding of how to interact appropriately with peers, but they may have difficulty learning to apply this knowledge in the context of everyday situations. Additional research with strong experimental designs is needed to confirm these findings.

Recommendations:An important area for future research is to evaluate social skills groups in studies with strong experimental designs. It also will be important to develop strategies to help children with autism spectrum disorders generalize skills from therapy groups to everyday situations. Professionals should present social skills groups as having limited scientific support, encourage families who are considering this intervention to use it in conjunction with other teaching methods, and recommend careful evaluation of the intervention.

Selected References:

Selected scientific studies:

Lopata, C., Thomeer, M. L., Volker, M. A., & Nida, R. E. (2006). Effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioral treatment on the social behaviors of children with asperger disorder. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21(4), 237-244.

Solomon, M., Goodlin-Jones, B. L., & Anders, T. F. (2004). A social adjustment enhancement intervention for high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 649–668.

Ozonoff, S., & Miller, J. N. (1995). Teaching theory of mind: A new approach to social skills training for individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25, 415–433.

Systematic reviews:

Reichow B., Steiner A. M., and Volkmar F. (2012). Social skills groups for people aged 6 to 21 with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 7.
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008511.pub2

White, S. W., Koenig, K., & Scahill, L. S. (2007). Social skills development in children with autism spectrum disorders: A review of the intervention research.

Related articles:

Preschool-based social-communication treatment for children with autism: 12- month follow-up of a randomized trial

RCT of a manualized social treatment for high-functioning autism spectrum disorders

Making the connection: Randomized controlled trial of social skills at school for children with autism spectrum disorders

Brief report: Effect of a focused imitation intervention on social functioning in children with autism

A Randomized Trial of Social Skills Groups at School

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