Youth with Asperger Syndrome (AS) have severe deficits in sociocommunicative competence, which can lead to mental health problems and difficulties in school and social environments (Little, 2001), and it is critical that we evaluate programs that purport to improve this competence (Rao et al., 2008). The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto offers a social skills program to youth with AS. This 10 week program aims to reduce the social skills deficits, anxiety and problem behaviors in youth with AS, and to train parents on how to generalize these skills to alternate environments and improve the parent-child relationship.
Objectives: This poster will examine whether the intervention leads to (a) reductions in anxiety, depression, oppositionality and aggressive behavior, and (b) improved social skills in youth. The poster will also present on the relationship between maladaptive behavior and social competence.
Methods: Twenty-seven children (22 males and 5 females, 7-14 years of age) are currently participating in the 10-week manualized social skills group. Pre-post data will be collected from both youth and parents on measures of social skills, internalizing and externalizing behaviors using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham, & Elliott, 2008). Youth will also self-report their perceptions of self-concept as measured by the Self Perceptions Profile For Children (SPPC; Harter, 1985).
Results: Prior to the intervention, 95% of youth had clinically significant deficiencies according to the social skills subscale of the SSIS (M = 72.1, SD = 8.4), with 81% having below average communication and cooperation skills, and 90% having below average empathy and engagement skills. Seventy five percent of youth had clinically significant problem behaviors (M = 127.1, SD = 15.9), with above average levels for 62% on externalizing behaviors, and 75% for internalizing behaviors. With regards to youth self-perceptions, 44% reported Low perceived levels of social acceptance with peers. We will present changes in specific SSIS and SPPC scales and on the correlation between change in social skills and in maladaptive behaviour.
Conclusions: There is evidence that social skills groups can be a useful mode of intervention for helping children with AS. Further research is needed to evaluate existing programs so that we can achieve the capacity to meet the needs of this underserved group, and develop evidence-based practices.