Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) constitute a group of disorders characterized by core deficits in communication, social reciprocity, and overall social functioning that are developmentally pervasive. In particular, young adults with ASD present with difficulties in sustaining interpersonal relationships, romantic interactions, and navigating social environments as a result of deficient social skills (Kanne et al., 2009). While social skills training is a common and important method of treatment, identifying factors that predict treatment outcome is also essential to the development and evolution of social skills interventions designed for young adults with ASD. The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is an evidence-based and caregiver-assisted intervention that targets the core social deficits of ASD and fosters essential relationship skills for high-functioning young adults on the spectrum. Research examining the effectiveness of PEERS® for Young Adults has revealed significant enhancements in social engagement, communication, and overall social functioning (Gantman et al., 2012); however, predictors of treatment outcome have yet to be examined. In particular, the impact of baseline social functioning and empathy on treatment outcomes among young adults with ASD has yet to be investigated.
The present study examines the relationship between baseline social responsiveness and self-reported empathy on multi-dimensional social treatment outcome measures among young adults with ASD following the completion of a 16-week caregiver-assisted social skills intervention.
Twenty-seven young adults with ASD ranging from 18-28 years of age (M=20.9, SD=2.35) and their caregivers participated in weekly 90-minute group treatment sessions for 16 weeks as part of the PEERS® for Young Adults social skills intervention. Group participants completed various pre and post-intervention measures including the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino, 2005), Empathy Quotient (EQ; Baron-Cohen & Wheelbright, 2004), and the Quality of Socialization Questionnaire-Young Adult (QSQ-YA; Frankel & Mintz, 2008), the latter of which assesses the frequency of social interactions through initiated and invited get-togethers and dates. Baseline SRS and EQ scores were examined to understand the relationship between pre-treatment caregiver-reported social responsiveness and young adult self-reported empathy with post-treatment outcome, as measured by improvement in frequency of social interactions with peers on the QSQ-YA.
Results indicate that baseline caregiver-reported SRS total scores significantly predict increased frequency in the total number of peer social interactions as measured by the QSQ-YA (p<.05) post-treatment. In particular, results reveal that baseline SRS total scores significantly predict change in young adult initiated get-togethers (p<.05) and dates (p<.05), as well as invited dates (p<.05). Likewise, baseline self-reported EQ total scores significantly predict increased frequency of young adult initiated dates (p<.05), as well as invited dates (p<.05).
Results suggest that following the completion of the PEERS® for Young Adults intervention, baseline caregiver-reported social responsiveness predicted treatment outcome for frequency of social interactions among young adults with ASD, including both platonic and romantic relationships. Furthermore, baseline young adult self-reported empathy appears to predict treatment outcome specific to the frequency of romantic interactions post-intervention.
See more of: Treatment Trials: Behavioral Interventions
See more of: Prevalence, Risk factors & Intervention