Examining the Effects of the PEERS® Social Skills Intervention on Racial and Ethnic Minorities with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
K. M. Rivera1, A. J. McVey1, H. K. Schiltz1, A. D. Haendel2, B. Dolan1, K. A. Willar3, S. Stevens4, A. M. Carson5, F. Mata-Greve1, E. Vogt1 and A. V. Van Hecke6, (1)Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (2)Interdisciplinary (Speech--Language Pathology & Psychology), Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (3)Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO, (4)University of Minnesota Medical School, Blaine, MN, (5)Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX, (6)Psychology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Background: There is limited research examining the effects of a social skills intervention on racial and ethnic minorities with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most research studies examining interventions with individuals with ASD are disproportionately non-Latino Caucasian or do not separately examine different racial and ethnic minorities (Lord et al., 2005).

Objectives: The goal of the current study was to examine if the effects of the PEERS® intervention differ among racial and ethnic groups in comparison to non-Latino Caucasian individuals with ASD.

Methods: One hundred and eighty-three (N = 183) individuals with ASD aged 11 to 28 participated (Mage = 15.2, sd = 3.5); nine identified as Asian, 11 as African American, eight as Latino, 152 as non-Latino Caucasian, and three individuals identified as Hawaiian/Islander, Middle Eastern, and Biracial/Multiracial, and were grouped together as “Other”. A randomized controlled trial design was used to examine the effects of PEERS® and PEERS® for Young Adults, parent/caregiver-assisted interventions focused on improving social and friendship skills (Experimental, n = 92; Waitlist, n = 91). Adolescents and young adults completed the Test of Adolescents Social Skills Knowledge (TASSK; Laugeson et al., 2012) and the Test of Young Adults Social Skills Knowledge (TYASSK; Gantman et al., 2012), respectively at pre- and post-intervention. The TASSK/TYASSK were used to assess social skills taught during PEERS®. Parents or primary caregivers completed the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino et al., 2003) and the Social Skills Improvement Scale-Revised Scales (SSIS-RS; Gresham & Elliott 2007) at both time points, which were used to measure autism-related behaviors and social skills, respectively.

Results: Preliminary analyses were conducted to examine possible group differences by race/ethnicity on demographic variables; no significant differences were found. Repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted for Time (Pre, Post) by Group (EXP, WL) by Race/Ethnicity (Asian, African American, Latino, Caucasian, Other) for each outcome measure. When analyzed by group, no significant difference was uncovered for response to treatment based on race/ethnicity on the TASSK/TYASSK (F(4,172) = .411, p = .801), SRS (F(4,160) = 1.600, p = .177), or SSIS-RS (F(4,169) = 1.229, p = .301). There was a significant difference between EXP and WL improvement on the TASSK/TYASSK (F(1,182) = 283.542, p < .001), SRS (F(1,170) = 16.720, p < .001), and SSIS (F(1,179) = 7.689, p= .006).

Conclusions: The present study provides preliminary evidence that PEERS® is as efficacious for racial and ethnic minority groups as non-Latino Caucasian adolescents and young adults with ASD. Although some research has demonstrated differences among minority compared to majority groups in autism-characteristics (Tek & Landa, 2012; Blacher et al., 2014; Gourdine & Algood, 2014) and shown different cultural interpretations of autism symptoms (Dyches et al., 2004; Bernier et al., 2010; Tincani et al., 2009), racial and ethnic minority groups in the present sample showed the same benefits in response to a social skills intervention as non-Latino Caucasian individuals. These findings are an important addition to the limited research about the effects of social skills interventions on racial and ethnic minorities with ASD.