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

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?"


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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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