Evaluating the Summer Treatment Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
B. Aaronson1,2, D. Campa1,2, A. Compton1,2, E. Baumler1 and A. M. Estes1,3, (1)University of Washington Autism Center, Seattle, WA, (2)Department of Educational Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, (3)Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background:   The Summer Treatment Program (STP) was developed by Pelham and colleagues to provide behavioral and social skills intervention for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (Pelham, Greiner, Gnagy, 1985; 2014). Children participate in structured recreational activities, while a detailed token economy promotes adaptive behaviors. Behavior management is a prominent program objective, along with a detailed social skills curriculum. There are around a dozen programs in the United States that use the STP methodology. It is becoming increasingly common for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to enroll in these summer programs due to their explicit structure, focus on social skills, and limited alternative summer options. To our knowledge, there has been no report of the effectiveness of the STP in promoting social skills for children with ASD.

Objectives:   To evaluate the effectiveness of the Summer Treatment Program in increasing positive peer interactions for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Methods:   The UW Autism Center adopted the Summer Treatment Program to provide children with ASD an opportunity for structured development of behavioral and social skills during the summer. Minor modifications to the program for children with ASD are described, including a modified time-out procedure. Graduate and undergraduate students were recruited to implement the program, completing 2 weeks of training in the STP model, including intervention techniques and behavioral coding. Behavioral data were collected continuously during the program, including measures of attention, compliance, and positive peer interactions. The frequency of positive peer interactions over time was reviewed for 59 participants of the 5-week program during the summer of 2015 with a documented diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Results:   Preliminary analysis of 59 participants with ASD included calculating a simple linear regression to examine the relationship between days of participation in the Summer Treatment Program and the number of positive peer interactions. A significant regression equation was found F(1, 1178) = 27.19, p < .001, with an R2of 0.022. Positive peer interactions increased 0.14 for each day of attending the program.

Conclusions:   For children with ASD who participated in the Summer Treatment Program, an increase was observed over time in the number of positive peer interactions, which includes helping others, sharing with others, and ignoring provocation. The Summer Treatment Program methodology may be an effective tool for increasing social skills in children with ASD. Future research might examine the program’s impact on other specific behavior and autism symptomology.