Predicting Treatment Outcome of the PEERS® School-Based Curriculum for Adolescents with ASD
Objectives: This study examines pretreatment variables that predict success in developing positive social skills outcomes following the implementation the PEERS School-Based Curriculum, a teacher-facilitated, school-based social skills program.
Methods: This research was conducted under the auspices of The Help Group/UCLA Autism Research Alliance. Participants included 80 adolescents with ASD (58 males, 22 females) attending a nonpublic middle/high school in Los Angeles County. The students, their parents and teachers each completed pre and post-test measures, including the Piers-Harris 2 (PH2; Piers, Harris, Herzberg, 2002), the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham & Elliot, 2008) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino & Gruber, 2005). Following the completion of baseline measures, the students participated in a 14-week manualized teacher-facilitated intervention at school, then completed post-test measures. Predictors associated with increases in social skills outcomes as measured by the SSIS were examined using multiple regression analysis of the data.
Results: Preliminary data analysis shows that social responsiveness (SRS) as indicated by parents and child self-report of self-esteem (PH2) at baseline are significant in explaining the variance in social skill acquisition (SSIS) following intervention. Parent report of the child's social communication and the adolescent's perceived abilities in school were significant in explaining the variance in social skills following intervention F(2,77) = 29.01, p<001. These two pretreatment variables can account for approximately 43% of the variance in social skills scores after treatment.
Conclusions: Data analysis revealed that social communication and perceived school status/intellectual competence are significant predictors for social skills outcomes following a teacher-facilitated social skills intervention in the school setting. Although consistent with previous research conducted in a clinic setting that parent and adolescent report of social skills and self-perceptions are key in identifying treatment success, this study highlights different subscales that should be further investigated. Specifically, a child’s perceived competence and ability in school as measured by the Piers-Harris-2 Intellectual and School Status subscale could predict success of a school-based intervention based on positive regard for the teacher or a motivation to do well in school. This in combination with the strength of the adolescent’s social communication skills may help facilitate success.