The Impact of the PEERSĀ® Intervention on Social Phobia in Young Adults with ASD

Friday, May 15, 2015: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Imperial Ballroom (Grand America Hotel)
A. J. McVey1, B. Dolan1, K. A. Schohl1, S. Stevens1, J. S. Karst1, A. M. Carson2, C. L. Casnar3, S. Timmer-Murillo1, E. Vogt1, S. A. Chesney1, K. Reiter1, N. Gordon1 and A. V. Van Hecke1, (1)Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (2)Psychology, Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX, (3)University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Background:   While literature suggests that children and adolescents with high-functioning ASD report significantly more social phobia symptoms than their typically developing peers (Kuusikko et al., 2008; White, Oswald, Ollendick, & Scahill, 2009), there are very few studies that examine social phobia among young adults with ASD.  The co-occurrence of social phobia and ASD can have a marked negative affect on social skills and relationships, however there is a paucity of studies evaluating the impact of social skills interventions on social phobia among young adults with ASD.

Objectives:   The objectives of this study were to examine changes in social phobia symptoms in young adults with ASD who underwent social skills intervention.

Methods:   Eighteen young adults (n = 18; 14 male) between the ages of 18 and 28 with ASD and 14 typically developing young adults (n = 14; 7 male) between the ages of 18 and 22 participated in the study. The current study conducted a social skills intervention, the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS). PEERS focuses on improving friendship quality and social skills among young adults with higher-functioning ASD (Gantman, Kapp, Orenski, & Laugeson, 2012). Participants were high-functioning young adults with ASD, who comprised the Experimental Treatment Group (ASD), and typically developing young adults (TYP), who comprised the Control Group. Pre- and post-intervention measures included the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN; Connor et al., 2000), which is a self-report measure that was given to all participants.

Results:   Preliminary results include available data from the experimental treatment and control groups; ongoing analyses will include additional participants for both groups and a comparison waitlist ASD control group. Before PEERS intervention, young adults with ASD reported significantly higher levels of social phobia symptoms compared to TYPs, t(30) = 2.03, p = .05 (ASD mean = 24.5, TYP mean = 14.4).  However, after PEERS completion, young adults with ASD no longer significantly differed in social phobia symptoms from typically developing young adults, t(28) = 1.37, ns (ASD mean = 20.8, TYP mean = 14.4).

Conclusions:   Our results suggest that social phobia symptoms may decrease due to the PEERS social skills intervention. Initial results suggest that lower total scores on the SPIN at post-intervention may indicate less social phobia in young adults with ASD who completed PEERS. This finding will be examined further by comparing additional participants in the experimental treatment group to the typically developing control group, as well as to a waitlist control group of participants with ASD. This study has the potential to add to the literature regarding intervention effects on plasticity of social phobia in young adults with ASD.