International Meeting for Autism Research: Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Behavioral Summer Treatment Program for Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Behavioral Summer Treatment Program for Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
E. H. Sheridan1, S. Mrug1, J. B. Hodgens1, C. S. Patterson1 and K. J. Bailey2, (1)University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, (2)Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center, Inc., Birmingham, AL
Background: Children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD) demonstrate a number of core social and behavioral deficits that affect their ability to interact effectively with peers.  Despite recommendations to improve intervention programs for children with HFASD, few empirical studies have evaluated the efficacy of specific behavioral interventions.  A case report by Mrug and Hodgens (2008) described how the Summer Treatment Program (STP), a comprehensive behavioral intervention developed for children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, produced substantial changes in behavior and social functioning in four boys with Asperger’s Disorder.  Over the course of the STP, the boys decreased their rates of negative behaviors that are typically associated with peer dislike, and also made significant gains in their social relationships with peers.  However, a quantitative examination with a larger sample is needed to more reliably determine the effectiveness of STP on the behavioral and social functioning of children with HFASD. 

Objectives: The present study will examine the effectiveness of the STP on specific positive and negative behaviors of children with HFASD. 

Methods: The participants in the study were 15 boys with HFASD who attended the STP between 2004 and 2010. All participants were between 6 and 11 years (M = 8.9 years, SD = 1.75) and were diagnosed with a HFASD by a licensed mental health professional. The STP is an intensive, 6-week-long daily behavioral program that is conducted 5 days per week for 9 hours each day.  A comprehensive behavioral management system is administered during the majority of the group activities, during which children earn points for positive behaviors and lose points for negative behaviors.  Each day, the following positive behaviors were measured: following activity rules, attention, compliance, helping a peer, sharing with a peer, and contributing to group discussion.  Additionally, the following negative behaviors were measured: intentional aggression toward a peer or staff member, name calling/teasing, cursing/swearing, interruption, and complaining/whining.

Results: Average daily frequencies for the behavioral point system categories will be analyzed over three time periods (Weeks 1 and 2; Weeks 3 and 4; and Weeks 5 and 6) using repeated measures analysis of variance.  It is hypothesized that the frequency of negative behaviors will decrease as STP progresses, while the frequency of positive behaviors will increase.  Any significant main effects will be tested using one-tailed tests due to the clear directional nature of these hypotheses. The data are currently being compiled from STP records in preparation for data analysis.

Conclusions: The STP offers a unique opportunity to target behavioral functioning and social skills of children with HFASD within the context of a naturalistic, summer camp setting.  A better understanding of the effectiveness of STP on specific aspects of behavioral and social functioning of children with HFASD will have important implications for development and refinement of future intervention programs.

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