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The Development of the Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS): A Standardized Measure of Social Competence in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, 2 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
J. Yager and G. Iarocci, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Background:  Despite the fact that all individuals with ASD meet the social impairment diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-IV-TR, they do not all present with the same social difficulties. The variability in the expression and severity of social competence is particularly evident among the group of individuals with “high functioning” ASD who appear to have difficulty applying their average to above average intelligence in a social context. There is a striking paucity of empirical research investigating individual differences in social functioning among individuals with high functioning ASD as well as the implications of these differences on long-term outcomes. It is possible that more detailed investigations of social competence within ASD have been impeded by the lack of standardized measures available to assess the nature and severity of social impairment.

Objectives:  The current study aimed to develop and evaluate a parent rating scale capable of assessing individual differences in social competence (i.e., social strengths and weaknesses) among adolescents with high functioning ASD.

Methods:  The newly developed Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS) was administered via an online survey to the primary caregivers of 183 adolescents (135 ASD, 48 TD). The ADI-R was used to confirm ASD diagnoses. The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) was also administered to caregivers in order to evaluate convergent validity of the MSCS.

Results:  Results from confirmatory factor analyses supported the hypothesized multidimensional factor structure of the scale. Seven relatively distinct domains of social competence were identified including Social Motivation, Social Inferencing, Demonstrating Empathic Concern, Social Knowledge, Verbal Conversation Skills, Nonverbal Sending Skills, and Emotion Regulation. Psychometric evidence provided preliminary support for the reliability and validity of the scale and included indices of internal consistency, convergent validity, discriminant validity, criterion-related validity, and known groups validity.

Conclusions:  The development of the MSCS was informed by a combination of theory-driven and empirical (i.e., data-driven) approaches to test construction. Preliminary evidence suggests that the MSCS is a psychometrically sound parent rating scale that is capable of providing a differentiated assessment of social competence in adolescents with high functioning ASD. Although additional studies are warranted to replicate the results and further document psychometric properties, the MSCS holds promise as a tool that will find many uses in both research and clinical settings. In particular, it is hoped that the scale may offer a means of parsing heterogeneity in ASD by identifying meaningful profiles or patterns of social competence.

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