Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Van Hecke, Amy V.

Second Advisor

Heck, Nicholas

Third Advisor

Wierzbicki, Michael


The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise. Due to a lack of efficacious treatments, the number of young adults with ASD is also increasing. Young adults with ASD experience difficulties with empathy, loneliness, and anxiety. Few efficacious social skills intervention for young adults with ASD exist. However, a social skills intervention called PEERS® for Young Adults was recently developed and has shown to be effective for improving the experiences of young adults with ASD. The original study has not yet been independently replicated outside of the site of development and has several limitations. The present study sought to replicate and extend the original study by recruiting a larger sample of participants, utilizing a gold standard ASD assessment tool, and examining the effect of the intervention on social anxiety.Results indicated that young adults with ASD benefit from participating in the PEERS® for Young Adults intervention. In particular, we found improvements in social responsiveness, PEERS® knowledge, empathy, direct social interaction, and social anxiety. Unlike the developers, we did not find an improvement in loneliness among our sample.These findings provide additional support for the PEERS® for Young Adults intervention to improve the lives of individuals with ASD. Young adulthood can be a very challenging time for individuals with ASD, resulting in increases in psychological difficulties, challenges obtaining or maintaining employment, and social isolation. Young adults who participate in the PEERS® for Young Adults intervention are better able to navigate the social world, and thus, are likely to experience improved outcomes over individuals who do not receive the intervention.