Assessment of Intervention Effects on In Vivo Peer Interactions in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Bridget Kathleen Dolan, Marquette University


To date, there are no known published studies that have assessed the effectiveness of social skills intervention for adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) or high functioning autism (HFA) via an observational method. Specifically, previous studies have relied on self-report measures from parents, adolescents, or teachers about the improvement of social skills. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a randomized controlled trial of a social skills intervention program, the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), by coding a digitally recorded, in vivo, social interaction between adolescent participants with ASD and a typically developing adolescent. Forty-five participants were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or waitlist control group. Adolescent participants engaged in a 10-minute peer interaction with an unfamiliar, typically developing, gender-matched adolescent at pre- and post- treatment in order to evaluate the effectiveness of PEERS in teaching key social skills. Data were coded using the Contextual Assessment of Social Skills (CASS: Ratto, Turner-Brown, Rupp, Mesibov, & Penn, 2010). Although results showed that participants demonstrated a clear learning of concepts taught in PEERS, behavior effects in the in vivo social interaction were not significant; however, these findings add to the minimal research in this area.