Comparing Social Skills Outcomes in Adolescents with ASD and Adolescents with ADHD Following the UCLA PEERS® Intervention
Adolescents with ASD or with ADHD often exhibit social deficits (Macintosh & Dissanayake, 2006; Landau & Moore, 1991), which cause them to experience peer rejection or social neglect more than their typically developing peers (Jones & Frederickson, 2010; Hoza et al., 2005). The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is an evidence-based parent-assisted social skills intervention that improves social skills in adolescents diagnosed with ASD (Laugeson et al., 2009; 2012), and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD (Gardner et al., 2015). While research suggests PEERS® improves social skills for these two groups, the difference in treatment outcomes between youth with ASD and youth with ADHD has yet to be investigated.
This study examines social skills outcomes in adolescents with ASD, compared to adolescents with ADHD, following the PEERS® intervention.
Ninety-two adolescents (males= 74; females= 18) aged 11 to 17 years (M= 13.74, SD= 1.70) and their parents participated in the study. Participants attended PEERS®, a 14-week social skills program that includes 90-minute weekly group sessions that target the development and maintenance of social relationships. Seventy-two of the participants were diagnosed with ASD; 20 were diagnosed with ADHD. Adolescents diagnosed with both ASD and ADHD were excluded from the study. In order to assess treatment outcome, adolescents completed the Quality of Socialization Questionnaire (QSQ; Frankel & Mintz, 2008), which measures social engagement through the number of get-togethers with peers over the previous month. Parents completed the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2; Constantino, 2005), which measures the adolescent’s ability to both pick-up on and interpret social cues, the motivation to engage socially, and other impairments such as stereotypical behaviors, highly restricted interests and limited expressive social communication. Both measures where administered pre- and post-intervention.
Results were analyzed using a Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) using SPSS. Findings reveal that both groups significantly improved on the QSQ (T1 (M = 3.08, SD = 3.54) and T2 (M = 6.44, SD = 5.62) conditions; t(91) = -5.71, p<0.001) and the SRS-2 (T1 (M=76.76, SD= 12.35) and T2 (M= 68.22, SD= 11.04) conditions; t(91)= 8.037, p<0.001) following the intervention. However, there are no statistically significant differences between the ASD and ADHD groups with regard to treatment outcome. F(2, 89)=0.18, p>.05, Wilk’s Λ = 0.99, partial η 2 = 0.004.
These findings suggest that following the PEERS® intervention, adolescents with ASD and adolescents with ADHD exhibit improvement in social skills in the areas of greater social engagement through get-togethers with peers, and in improved social responsiveness. Results further demonstrate that there were no significant differences in treatment effects across the two groups, suggesting that both adolescents with ASD and adolescents with ADHD equally benefit from the intervention. One limitation in the current study was the relatively small ADHD sample size, something that could be addressed in future studies. Additionally, future research might examine the impact of having comorbid ASD and ADHD on treatment outcomes, as well as other factors including subtypes of ADHD, such as greater inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity.