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:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... The rapid speed at which ... age, more care is needed, especially with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive conditions ... overworked. The forgotten part of this equation: 80 percent of medical care occurs ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... County, CA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... season , The company is offering customers 10% off of their purchase of lice ... any treatment at full price. According to a company spokesperson. “Finding lice is a ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... motto of progress through sharing, the 2016 Building Better Radiology Marketing Programs ... conference will begin on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at Caesars Palace in Las ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Keeping ... platform for mental health and wellness consultation, has collaborated with a leading web-based ... the knowledge gap experienced by parents and bring advice from parenting experts within ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... , ... November 27, 2015 , ... Avid collector, Andrew ... Arbor Michigan boxing style concert posters. This is one of Joplin's most famous and ... House at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The According to Hawley, "It ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... "2016 Future Horizons and Growth Strategies in ... Shares, Country Segment Forecasts, Competitive Intelligence, Emerging Opportunities" ... --> --> This new ... Japanese therapeutic drug monitoring market, including emerging tests, ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... Wound Care Market by Type (Dressings, Therapy Devices, Active ... Facility, Out-Patient Facility), and Geography - Global Forecast to ... --> --> The purpose of ... forecast of the global advanced wound care market. It ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... DUBLIN , November 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... the addition of the "Radioimmunoassay Market ... User (Hospital, Pharmaceutical Industry, Academics, Clinical Diagnostic ... - Global Forecast to 2020" report ... ) has announced the addition of the ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: