Navigation Links
Teaching autistic teens to make friends

During the first week of class, the teens' eyes were downcast, their responses were mumbled and eye contact was almost nonexistent. By Week 12, though, these same kids were talkative, responsive and engaged.

That's the result of a special class designed at UCLA to help teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) learn to interact appropriately with their peers. ASD includes a range of pervasive developmental disorders characterized by problems with communication and socialization; it's estimated that one in 150 children born in the United States has some form of ASD.

In a study appearing in the April edition of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, UCLA clinical instructor of psychiatry Elizabeth Laugeson and colleagues report that in comparison with a control group, the treatment group taking the class significantly improved their overall social skills and interactions with their peers.

"Although, typically, developing teens often learn basic social rules through observation of peer behavior and specific instruction from parents," Laugeson said, "adolescents with autism spectrum disorders often require further instruction.

"It's hard enough to be a teenager," she said, "but it's harder still for adolescents with autism because they typically lack the ability to pick up on all the social cues most of us take for granted things like body language, hand gestures and facial expressions, along with speech inflections like warmth, sarcasm or hostility.

"Lack of these basic social skills may lead to rejection, isolation or bullying from their peers. And sadly, that isolation can carry into their adult life."

Laugeson and her colleagues developed the class, called PEERS (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills), to give high-functioning teens with ASD a set of specific social skills.

"How do you have a successful get-together with someone? How do you go up to a group of teens and join their conversation? What do you say as a comeback when someone teases you? Without these core social skills, it becomes very difficult for teenagers to make and keep friends," Laugeson said.

In the study, 33 teens with ASD 28 males and five females attended the PEERS classes. All the participants had a previous diagnosis of high-functioning autism, Asperger's Disorder or Pervasive Developmental DisorderNot Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). The teens met once a week for 12 weeks; each session lasted 90 minutes. Instruction was conducted in a small-group format, with seven to 10 teens, using established strategies for teaching social skills to adolescents with ASD.

Parents were also required to attend separate, concurrent sessions where they were provided direct instruction and guidance to support their child's development.

"Parental involvement was mandatory and important," said Laugeson, who is also associate director of the UCLA Parenting and Children's Friendship Program and director of the Help GroupUCLA Autism Research Alliance. "Other research has shown us that parent involvement can have significant positive effects upon children's friendships, both in terms of direct instruction and supervision, as well as supporting a child's development of an appropriate peer network."

The class focused on teaching rules of social etiquette to the teens, while their parents were given information about how to supervise the implementation of these newly learned skills. These included: how to comfortably join and exit a group of peers; how to pick the right peer group (such as jocks, nerds or gamers); learning good sportsmanship; learning good host behavior during get-togethers; changing bad reputations by changing one's "look" and owning up to a previously bad reputation; and handling teasing, bullying and arguments.

Each class included brief didactic instruction, role-playing exercises in which appropriate social skills were modeled, behavioral rehearsal for teens to practice newly learned skills, coaching with performance feedback, and weekly "homework" assignments supervised by parents, such as inviting a friend over to the home for a get-together.

"The class is very structured, and the skills are broken into small steps that give the teens specific actions they can take in response to a social situation," Laugeson said. "This method of instruction is very appealing to teens with autism because they tend to think concretely and often learn by rote. So if they are teased, for example, we teach them to give a short comeback like saying 'whatever' or 'so what?' They learn not to take the bait."

Results of testing show that teens who have been through the PEERS program were having more peer interactions with their friends outside of school, and parents reported significant improvement in overall social skills, as measured by a standardized test of social functioning.

Results were encouraging, as improvement was demonstrated on a number of outcome measures. Teens in the treatment group demonstrated improved knowledge of rules of social etiquette relevant to making and keeping friends. They and their parents also reported a significant increase in the frequency of hosted get-togethers and a significantly better quality of friendships at the end of treatment, in comparison with the control group.

"For me, the most important outcome of this research is that we're able to have a direct impact on the quality of lives for teenagers with ASD," Laugeson said. "Helping them to develop meaningful relationships and feel more comfortable within their social world these are essential ingredients to living a happy life, and what could be more important than that?"


Contact: Mark Wheeler
University of California - Los Angeles

Related medicine news :

1. Tips for Parents: Teaching Children to Resolve Conflicts
2. Vatican Affirms Church Teaching on Nutrition and Hydration for Individuals In Vegetative State
3. 10th Anniversary of Revolutionary Teaching Approach that Offers the Severely Disabled the Gift of Self-Expression - Through Painting
4. Risk of surgery for lung cancer lower at teaching hospitals
5. St. John Health Hospitals Honored as Nations Top 15 Major Teaching Hospitals
6. Johns Hopkins Medical School Sets Research and Teaching Collaboration with University of Patras in Greece
7. Fighting Childhood Obesity with Tools and Teaching
8. Game-Based Technology to Meet Demand for Improved Medical Teaching and Training
9. 80 Million Americans Can Benefit from New Diabetes Resource : Free Educational Website Created by UCSF Diabetes Teaching Center Goes Live
10. Internet-based instruction effective for teaching health-care professionals
11. Mayo Clinic, McMaster University Research Review Shows Internet-based Instruction Effective for Teaching Health Care Professionals
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... With Thanksgiving right ... is sharing safety tips to help protect your family and vehicle. , According to ... the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Amica is sharing the following safety tips from the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Abington, PA (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 ... ... announce that it has been designated an Aetna Institute of Quality® Bariatric Surgery ... information about the quality and cost of health care services available to its ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... award for its exceptional customer service: the TrustDale certification. The award recognizes good ... Baltimore stone honing , tile and grout, and hard surface restoration company ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... Autism Speaks, ... the global movement driven by social media and the generosity of people around the ... encourage their social media networks to give – and share the personal stories behind ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... her life, Don Peck’s mother wondered if she was a descendant of Samuel Fuller, a ... a 25-year search for information, Don and his aunt discovered that she was not, in ... out, it was Don’s father who was descended from not one, but four passengers on ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015   HeartWare International, Inc . ... miniaturized circulatory support technologies that are revolutionizing the treatment ... Chief Executive Officer Doug Godshall is scheduled ... Annual Healthcare Conference on December 1, 2015 at 3:00 ... in New York . ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... BERN, Switzerland , November 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Biomedical Engineering Research of the University of ... Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition of the Bern University Hospital ... exclusive collaboration to develop a novel generation artificial pancreas. ... delivery of insulin for diabetic patients with the unequalled ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 F1000Workspace - a research ... it was launched just six months ago. --> ... platform for scientists - since it was launched just six ... loaded on to F1000Workspace - a research collaboration, ... was launched just six months ago. --> ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: