Description: Attendance at classes in the community to give the child opportunities to participate in group activities and interact with other children. Socialization classes are different from an integrated preschool, where therapeutic and special education services are delivered in a typical educational classroom.
Examples: Mommy and Me class, Gymboree, or Private preschool
Research Summary: Socialization related classes may be an enjoyable recreational activity, affording opportunities to generalize skills learned in therapy or school programs. However, their effects have not been evaluated in scientific studies with strong experimental designs.
Some studies suggest that simply placing children with autism spectrum disorders in settings with typical peers, without any other intervention, may increase their social interactions (Lord & Hopkins, 1986) and reduce their repetitive behaviors (McGee, Paradis, & Feldman, 1993), but other studies have not shown these effects (Strain, 1983). Thus, additional research is needed on whether simply placing children with autism in settings with typical peers is effective. However, there is strong evidence from multiple studies that placing children with autism spectrum disorders in settings with typically developing peers who have been taught to serve as tutors or models is effective in increasing social interactions (McConnell, 2002).
Recommendations: Socialization-related classes may be an enjoyable leisure activity for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. They also may afford opportunities for socialization, particularly if peers who have been taught to serve as tutors or models are available during the activity.
Selected scientific studies:
Lord, C., & Hopkins, J. M. (1986). The social behavior of autistic children with younger and same-age nonhandicapped peers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 16, 249-262.
McGee, G. G., Paradis, T., & Feldman, R. S. (1993). Free effects of integration on levels of autistic behavior. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 13, 57-67.
Strain, P. S. (1983). Generalization of autistic children’s social behavior change: Effects of developmentally integrated and segregated settings. Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 3, 23-34.
Systematic reviews of scientific studies:
McConnell, S. (2002). Interventions to facilitate social interaction for young children with autism: Review of available research and recommendations for educational intervention and future research. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 351-372.