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Adapting Evidence-based Social Skills Training for Children with High Functioning Autism (HFA)

SBIR phase I

Project Info

Project Description

NIMH
ID: HHSN278200553102C
PI: MELISSA DEROSIER, PHD
TERM: 10/05 – 04/06

Social skills deficits are often considered the hallmark of autism. Individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome typically have pervasive social skill deficits and poor relationships with their peers, despite relatively intact cognitive functioning. Improvement in the area of social functioning can be very challenging for these children. Existing social skills interventions, in particular programs that have undergone efficacy testing, are lacking. At the same time, the federal government and the Autism Society of America report that the development of research-based materials to meet the needs of autistic children is a high priority.

The goal of this Phase I project was to create a new intervention for children with HFA/AS that combined multi-media materials (e.g., video, written, experiential) in a multi-component framework (i.e., involving children, parents, and teachers) to directly address the needs of children ages 8-12 with HFA/AS. A prototype of the intervention was developed including the Professional Manual, session scripts, parent handouts, child workbook, and community-based exercises. Prototype materials focused on skill training in the following three areas: (1) communication, (2) perspective taking, and (3) initiation and maintenance of friendships. Results of feasibility testing with professionals serving children with HFA/AS and with parents and children showed high enthusiasm for the product. Professionals rated the materials as easy to understand, easy to use, and engaging for children. Program methods to extend training into the home and school environments (parent handouts and resource guide) were seen as highly important. Overall, parents also viewed the prototype materials as being of high quality and highly likely to be effective in teaching social skills to children with HFA/AS. In addition, 100% of parents recommended continued development of the product.

Phase II funding for this program was obtained to continue product development and to conduct a clinic-based efficacy test using an experimental design examining changes in social skills and peer relations in children with HFA/AS who receive the intervention.

S.S.GRIN HFA is now available for purchase. To learn more or to purchase S.S.GRIN HFA, visit 3C Marketplace.

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