Monday, May 16, 2011

The Science of Teaching Social Skills to Teens and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA Peers Program.

Elizabeth Laugeson, Psy.D.

Social Deficits with ASD
1.   Poor social communication
-things to talk about
-focus on repetitive themes, disregard of other person (1-sided conversation)
-difficulty providing relevant information
-unexpected leaps in topics
-pedantic style of speaking (robotic)
- highly verbose (i.e., conversation hogging)
-difficulty interpreting verbal and social cues (sarcasm, tone, gesture, social touch).

2.  Social Awareness
- Poor eye contact (but may have over learned and may now stare)
-Difficulty with social cues.
-Poor social motivation (extracurricular activities)
- Lack of peer entry
- Poor social cognition (i.e., putting self in other’s shoes)
-friendships focused on restricted interests  (presenter said this wasn’t a bad thing because most friendships are based on similar interests).

Results of Above:
-Peer rejection
-Bad reputation, teasing, bullying.
-Social neglect and isolation
-Peer conflicts (arguments are more black and white and lead to end of friendship)
- Poor friendship quality – less companionship, less help from friends, less security in friendships and greater loneliness.

They want to be be social but don’t know how.

Importance of Improving Friendships:
-One or two close friends predict later adjustments.
-Buffer impact of stress.
-Correlates positively with a self esteem.
-Increases independence.
-Correlates negatively with depression and anxiety.

Peer Rejection
-One of the strongest predictors of later mental health problems
-Juvenile delinquency
-Early withdrawal from school

-Manualized intervention
-Parent assisted/Caregiver assisted
-Address core deficits.
-Focus on friendship skills
-Teaches ecologically valid social skills

-Small group format
-Concurrent parent/caregiver sessions (work on expanding social opportunities and social coaching)
-Didactic Instruction (Structured lessons, concrete rules, steps of social etiquette)
-Socratic method of instruction
-Role playing/Modeling of both inappropriate and appropriate behaviors.
- Behavioral Rehearsal
-In-session coaching
-Real-life practice (homework assignment/parent assistance)

Treatment sessions
1.  Conversation skills
-Trade info
-Find common interests
-Reciprocal/2-way conversations
-Non-verbal communication
2. Electronic Communication – i.e., email, text, phone conversations
3.  Choose appropriate friends
- Identifying peer group and explain function of groups to find friends.
-Identifying extracurricular activities
4.  Appropriate use of humor
-Pay attention to humor feedback
5.  Peer entrance and exit strategies (conversation)
6. Get togethers
- Be a good host or guest during get togethers.  Don’t call them play dates.  J
7.  Dating Etiquette
8.  Good sportsmanship
9.  Peer rejection (save until the end of intervention when they are feeling better about themselves)
10.  Handling peer pressure

Ecologically Valid Skills

-Peer Entry in Conversation
1. Watch/Listen (using a prop is useful, i.e., looking at your phone)
-Listen for the topic
-Identify common interests
-Make periodic Eye Contact.
2.  Wait
-Wait for a pause (there is NEVER a perfect pause)
-look for a sign of receptiveness
3.  Join
-Move closer
-Make a comment or ask a question that is ON TOPIC
-Use gaze aversion at first
4.  Assess interest – Did they open the circle to include you?

-Handling Teasing (Verbal)
1.  Act like what the person said/did didn’t bother you.
2.  Do not walk away, ignore the person or tell an adult.
3.  Provide a brief comeback to make the other person feel lame:
-So what?
-Big deal!
-Who cares?

-Handling Bullying (Physical)
1.  Avoid the bully
-lay low, stay out of reach of the bully
2.  Do not provoke the bully
3.  Do not use teasing strategies
4.  Do not act silly or tease the bully
5.  Don’t police the bully (i.e., tell on, etc.)
6.  Don’t try to make friends with the bully
7.  Hang out with other teens
-Bullies like to pick on teens who are by themselves.
8.  Hang out near adults when bully is nearby.
9.  (Only if you are in danger)get help from an adult

For more information on PEERS manuals and trainings, please see

No comments: