Examining the Impact of the PEERSĀ® Social Skills Intervention on Females with ASD

Friday, May 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
A. McVey1, B. Dolan1, A. G. Meyer1, J. S. Karst2, S. Stevens3, K. A. Schohl1, C. Caiozzo1, E. Vogt1, S. Potts1 and A. V. Van Hecke1, (1)Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (2)Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa, WI, (3)University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Background:   A paucity of research has been conducted to examine the effect of social skills interventions on females with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Broadly, literature on social skills interventions for this population has focused on males alone or males and females in aggregate (Chan et al., 2009).

Objectives:   The primary objectives of this study were to examine if changes in social skills knowledge and social responsiveness among female adolescents and young adults with ASD differed from males who underwent the same social skills intervention.

Methods:    One hundred and eleven adolescents (n = 111; 15 female) between the ages of 11 and 16, and 48 young adults (n = 48; 9 female) between the ages of 18 and 28 with ASD participated in this study. Two comparable social skills interventions, specifically the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) for adolescents and PEERS® for Young Adults, were conducted based on age. Both PEERS® interventions focus on improving friendship quality and social skills among young adults with higher-functioning ASD (Laugeson, Frankel, Gantman, Dillon, & Mogil, 2012; Gantman, Kapp, Orenski, & Laugeson, 2012). Participants were high-functioning individuals with ASD, who comprised the Experimental Treatment Group (n = 56 adolescents, n = 23 young adults) and the Waitlist Control Group (n = 55 adolescents, n = 25 young adults). Pre- and post-intervention measures included the Test of Adolescent Social Skills Knowledge (Laugeson and Frankel, 2010) for adolescents, the Test of Young Adult Social Skills Knowledge (Gantman et al., 2012) for young adults, which are self-report measures, and the Social Responsiveness Scale (Constantino et al., 2003), a parent-report measure.

Results:   Preliminary results include available data from males and females from the experimental treatment and waitlist control groups; ongoing analyses will include additional participants for both groups. When analyzed by group, males and females do not differ significantly on their improvement within these areas, as measured by the TASSK/TYASSK (F = .748, p = .388) and SRS (F = .494, p = .483). Both groups demonstrate significant improvement on both the TASSK/TYASSK (F = 121.2, p < .01) and SRS (F = 10.8, < .01) from pre- to post-intervention.

Conclusions:    Our results suggest that the PEERS® intervention is as effective for females with ASD as males with the disorder. Research shows that males and females often demonstrate differing presentations of the disorder (Dean, 2013), and females may be thought to be more “socialized” than males (Goldman, 2013; Solomon et al., 2012). Our findings indicate that, despite these differences in presentation, females show similar patterns of improvement in social skills to males. This has important implications for understanding how females with ASD respond to social skills intervention.