International Meeting for Autism Research: An Investigation of Video-Based Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

An Investigation of Video-Based Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
K. Johnston1 and G. Iarocci2, (1)Burnaby, BC, Canada, (2)Psychology , Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Background: Video-based social skills programs (e.g.,, and are used extensively as teaching tools for children with autism yet they have not been examined empirically.  Although the use of videos on a computer format may be generally motivating for children with ASD (Bellini & Akullian, 2007) and individualized modeling of social behaviour in video-format has been shown to be effective in improving a variety of meaningful social behaviours (Bellini & Akullian, 2007), generic social skills programs available on the web may not suit the needs of all children with ASD.

Objectives: As an initial attempt to explore video-based software programs as a method of teaching social skills to high functioning (HF) persons with ASD we posed three research questions:  How do children and adolescents with ASD perform on select Social Skill Builder (Jacobs & Jacobs, 2005) software tasks in comparison to their typically developing (TD) peers?  Do scores on the software tasks correlate with parent reports of their real-life social impairments?  How does performance on the different types of tasks used (videos and pictures) compare?

Methods: Participants were 26 youth with ASD and 16 TD peers between 9 and 17 years of age and one of each of the youth’s parents.  The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino, 2005) was selected as a measure of parent reported real-life social functioning.  Higher scores on the SRS are strongly associated with a clinical diagnosis of ASD and represent a higher level of social impairment. 

Results: No significant differences in performance on the software tasks combined were found between the two groups at the .05 level (p=.091) and no correlation between scores on the software tasks and the SRS for both groups (ASD: r=.026, p>.05; TD: r=.039, p>.05).  Finally, results showed no significant difference in scores between the two groups on the picture task at the .05 level (p=.072), but a significant difference between the groups on the video tasks at the .05 level (p=.002). 

Conclusions: Given the high degree of social impairment observed in the ASD group, as indicated by their high SRS scores (85% of the sample obtained a score in the most severe range), the finding of no significant differences in performance between the groups on combined and picture-based video tasks and no correlation with parent reported real-life social impairments points to a problem in the design of these tasks for the purpose of teaching social skills to children with autism.  Computer based video software programs may be motivating for children with autism and have the potential to provide a training environment that decreases the anxiety and stress associated with social situations.  However, research is needed to determine how best to design these software programs to tailor the teaching goals based on an assessment of the social difficulties and effectively improve the social competence of HF individuals with ASD.

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