Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes in social skills functioning following a social skills group for children with ASD. Additionally, the social skills ratings of teachers, parents and children with ASD will be compared.
Methods: Six families of children with ASD were recruited for this study and diagnosis was confirmed with the ADOS. The Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS) was administered as part of a larger battery. The SSRS provides a broad, multi-rater assessment of social behaviors influencing the child’s development of social competence and adaptive functioning at school and at home. Informed consent was obtained from all parents and verbal assent was obtained from children prior to participation. Children participated in a 20-week social skills group with a co-occurring parent group (combination of psychoeducational and CBT approaches used). Data on social skills functioning was collected pre-intervention (week 1), mid-intervention (week 10), post intervention (week 20) and at a 3 month follow-up from children, parents, and teachers.
Results: Parents reported a statistically significant improvement in their child’s social skills by the end of the intervention, t(5)=4.98, p=.004. No statistically significant differences were found in social skills reported by the teachers, t(4)=1.70, p=.17, nor the children’s self reported social skills t(5)=.89, p=.41. Additionally, children with ASD reported themselves as having higher social skills compared to the ratings of their teachers and parents.
Conclusions: The current study found some support for the efficacy of a 20-week outpatient social skills group with a concurrent parent training component in improving the social skills of children with ASD. Parents reported the most improvement in their child’s social skills. Additionally, only parents reported a significant improvement in their children’s social skills. The small sample size of the study might have limited our ability to find significant effects in the teacher and child groups. It is also possible that parents observed improved social skills in their children because the parent training component of the program taught the parents to be more effective at engaging their children. Though children did not report an increase in their social skills over the course of the intervention, at all time points children with ASD perceived their social skills to be well above their functional abilities (as rated by parents and teachers). Future directions include increasing sample size, evaluating how to improve generalization of social skills from a group setting to the child’s everyday environments, and the effects of aggrandized self-perception of social skills in children with ASD.