Main Category: Autism
Also Included In: Psychology / Psychiatry; Pediatrics / Children’s Health
Article Date: 19 Jun 2012 – 11:00 PDT Current ratings for:
‘Autism In Teens – Teaching Social Skills Pays Off’
In 2006, the UCLA Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) clinic was established in order to help high functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve their social skills to fit in better with their peers at school.
High functioning adolescents with ASD are considered healthy enough to be “mainstreamed” in school.
Although PEERS was shown to be effective in earlier studies, researchers were still unsure as to whether the new skills “stuck” with these adolescents after they completed the PEERS classes.
Now, results from a long-term follow-up study show that these teens maintained the skills taught, and in some cases even improved. The study is published in the current edition of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Approximately 1 in 88 children born in the United States has some form of ASD.
The disorder is characterized by impairments in communication and socialization.
Elizabeth Laugeson, director of the PEERS Clinic and a UCLA assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, and colleagues found that the PEERS intervention resulted in considerable improvements in social skills among the teens.
In addition, reports from parents indicated that by the end of class and even at 14-week follow-up, adolescents’ ASD symptoms associated to social responsiveness significantly decreased. The researchers also found that the teens’ knowledge of social skills improved and they spent more time together with their peers.
Although the teachers did not know the adolescents who took part in the PEERS class, their ratings of the teens social functioning in class showed significant improvements at the long-term follow-up.
Furthermore, 14 weeks after the program was over, both teachers and parents reported fewer behavioral problems with the teens.
Laugeson, who also directs The Help Ground-UCLA Autism Research Alliance, explained:
“Teens not only showed better social competence and greater understanding of social skills, but they were having more frequent get-togethers with their peers because they had developed the critical skills needed to make and keep friends.”
Although earlier studies have shown that intervention during childhood and adolescence is vital, only a few evidence-based interventions focus on enhancing the social competence of adolescents with ASD, which makes findings from this study unique and important.
“This is exciting news. It shows that teens with autism can learn social skills and that the tools stick even after the program is over, improving their quality of life and helping them to develop meaningful relationships and to feel more comfortable within their social world. The fact that these social skills are sticking is critical, because we need them to thrive throughout our lives.”
According to Laugeson, the parents played a significant role in the effectiveness of the program. The PEERS classes, which focus on educating the teens about the rules of social etiquette, require parents to take part as well.
Parents were informed in separate meetings on how to be social coaches for their teens in the real world, for instance, how to avoid bullying or deflect taunts (“Yeah, whatever”), how to have a conversation (by trading information), and how to show good sportsmanship (“Hey, nice shot!”).
The 90 minute classes were held once a week for 14 weeks. During the class participants were given: role-playing demonstrationsbrief didactic instructionin-class coaching with performance feedbackbehavioral rehearsal exercisesIn addition, they were given weekly “homework” assignments, supervised by parents, such as inviting a friend over to their house for a get-together.
“The class is very structured, and the skills are broken down into small rules and steps of social etiquette that give the teens specific actions they can take in response to a social situation. This method of instruction is very appealing to teens with autism because they tend to think concretely and literally and often learn by rote.
Furthermore, the program teaches skills used by socially accepted teens – not what adults believe adolescents show do. For instance, if adolescents with ASD are teased, most adults will tell teens to ignore the person, walk away or tell an adult.
But when you ask teens if this works, they say no. So we want to teach our teens to do what kids that are socially accepted are naturally doing. In this case, that would be to give a short comeback that shows what the person said didn’t bother them – like saying ‘whatever’ or ‘yeah, and?’ They learn not to take the bait.”
Written By Grace Rattue
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today
Visit our autism section for the latest news on this subject. “Evidence-Based Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA PEERS Program”
Elizabeth A. Laugeson, Fred Frankel, Alexander Gantman, Ashley R. Dillon and Catherine Mogil
Journal of Austism and Developmental Disorders, June 2012, doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1339-1 Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Grace Rattue. “Autism In Teens – Teaching Social Skills Pays Off.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 19 Jun. 2012. Web.
20 Jun. 2012. APA
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
‘Autism In Teens – Teaching Social Skills Pays Off’
If you write about specific medications or operations, please do not name health care professionals by name.
All opinions are moderated before being included (to stop spam)
Contact Our News Editors
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the editors please use our feedback form.
Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
View the original article here