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Teaching autistic teens to make friends
Date:4/7/2009

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
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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