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Superheroes Social Skills for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Effects of a Multi-Component Social Skills Training Program On Acquisition, Generalization, and Maintenance of Target Social Skills

Friday, 3 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
K. C. Radley1, J. Hood2, B. Jenson2, H. Block2, E. Clark2 and W. M. McMahon3, (1)Department of Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, (2)Department of Educational Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, (3)Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background:  Social skills research for children with ASD has revealed that most training programs fail to produce treatment effects that generalize or are maintained beyond treatment.  Superheroes Social Skills is a social skills training program that incorporates multiple evidence-based practices in order to overcome previously-documented social skills training shortcomings.

Objectives:  The presentation aims are (1) describe multiple evidence-based practices assimilated into a single program for children with ASD; (2) review treatment, generalization, and maintenance effects of three pilot studies; and (3) describe and synthesize current research evaluating implementation of the program by trained and coached parents, as a summer camp program, and as utilized in school and clinic settings.

Methods:  The program was comprised of multiple evidence-based practices: (1) video modeling; (2) peer mediated instruction; (3) self-monitoring of skill use; (4) utilization of high-interest media; and (5) training for generalization through use of homework assignments.  Pilot evaluations took place in three settings: an outpatient clinical setting; a specialized school for preschool-age children with ASD; and a public elementary school.  Participants included 12 children with ASD.  Inclusion criteria were (1) current diagnosis of ASD; (2) score at or above ASD cutoff on multiple measure of ASD; and (3) verbal IQ at or above 69.  Typical peers were also included in lessons, which were taught twice weekly for 30 minutes. Current research on the program has expanded initial pilot studies though additional evaluation in school, clinical, and summer camp settings.  Additionally, parents have been trained to facilitate the program through in-vivo training and Skype-based coaching.

Treatment effects were assessed through direct observation of social engagement.  Additional measures utilized in evaluation of program efficacy include the Autism Social Skills Profile, Social Responsiveness Scale, and Parenting Stress Index.  The Behavior Intervention Rating Scale was utilized to assess consumer satisfaction and social validity.  Treatment sessions were filmed to aid in assessment of treatment integrity.

Results:  Results of three pilot studies indicated moderate to large increases in the participants’ social engagement, with effect sizes ranging from 0.74 to 1.47.  Effects were observed in treatment, in generalized settings, and at maintenance.  Similar effect sizes have been found in evaluations of the program in subsequent school, clinic, and summer camp-based evaluations of the program.  Data indicate decreases in aggressive behaviors following social skills intervention.  Evaluations on parent-facilitated social skills training indicates decreases in parent-reported stress associated with training and coaching.  Treatment fidelity, social validity, and consumer satisfaction was found to be high across all studies and settings.

Conclusions:   Results indicate that the multi-component training package, Superheroes Social Skills, is an effective and consumer-friendly social skills training program.  Replication of intervention procedures has revealed substantial improvements in social skills as a result of program implementation.  Results across studies indicate not only indicate the efficacy of the program in increasing appropriate social engagement, but document decreasing solitary play and aggressive behaviors in children with ASD and decreased parental stress.

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