Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)10:00 AM
Background: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment. This has resulted in an educational movement towards the integration of students with disabilities into the general education classroom where they are educated alongside their typical peers (Simpson, Boer-Ott, & Smith-Myles, 2003). Particular attention is being given to the inclusion of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and many argue that the level of social interaction of students with ASD will increase as a result of placement in the general education classroom (Boutot & Bryant, 2005). The development of friendships is an important component of the social structure because it can provide an invaluable context for forming interpersonal skills and developing self-concept (Chamberlain, Kasari, & Rotheram-Fuller, 2007). However, individuals with ASD often fail to develop adequate friendships and experience feelings of loneliness compared to typical peers (Bauminger & Kasari, 2000; Ochs, Kremer-Sadlik, Solomon, & Sirota, 2001). Friendship is a complex construct requiring adequate social skills including an ability to understand what others think and feel (Chamberlain et al., 2007). Therefore, the quality of social skills of individuals with ASD as reported by both parents and teachers is relevant to how these individuals might develop friendships or experience loneliness within the general education classroom. Objectives: The purpose of this preliminary study is two-fold: (a) to examine self-reported quality of friendships and feelings of loneliness of students with ASD in the general education classroom; and (b) to determine the association between self report of friendships and loneliness with parent and teacher report of quality of social skills. Methods: Data come from an archival data set obtained from a previous social skills group intervention for middle school students with ASD who were educated in the general education classroom. Data collected at baseline from approximately six children with ASD with student self-report on the Friendship Questionnaire and the Loneliness Scale as well as both parent and teacher reports on the Social Skills Rating Form will be used. Results: Data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics to examine how students with ASD in the general education classroom report on their quality of friendships and feelings of loneliness. Additionally, bivariate correlation will be used to examine the relationship between report of quality of social skills of the student (as reported by the parent and also by the teacher) and the self-reported scores on friendship and loneliness. Conclusions: Results from this preliminary study will seek to replicate previous findings looking at the quality of friendships and feelings of loneliness as reported by students with ASD in the general education classroom. Further, results from this study will explore the relationship between social skills of children with ASD and their perception of friendship quality and feelings of loneliness. Because of the growing emphasis on social skills training, it will be important to know whether students with ASD with higher quality social skills report greater quality of friendships and lower feelings of loneliness.