Increased Synchronous and Sustained Social Interactions Following a Social Skills Intervention for Adults with ASD

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. Murray1, A. Pearl2, S. L. Brown3, Z. Soulliard4 and K. C. Durica1, (1)Psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, (2)Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State College of Medicine, Hummesltown, PA, (3)Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, (4)Psychology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO
Background:  Despite increases in research examining the efficacy of social skills interventions for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), few studies have targeted adults. This is problematic as peer relationships during adulthood demand interactions that display complex social behaviors (i.e. behaviors occurring at the same time as each other) for optimal impact and efficiency.

Objectives:  This study examined the effectiveness of a social skills intervention for adults with ASD as evidenced by an increase of synchronized behaviors (i.e., eye contact, affect, and verbalization) at post-intervention of the social skills project compared to pre-intervention.

Methods:  Twenty-five adults between the ages of 18- and 30-years-old (M = 23.47, SD = 4.13) completed a 5-minute unstructured conversation with a same-age peer confederate pre- and post-intervention. The adolescents (84% male, 88% Caucasian) were diagnosed with ASD, confirmed by collateral reports on the Social Responsiveness Scale, Second Edition (SRS 2; M = 67.96, SD = 9.22). Additionally, verbal IQ was estimated using the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Scale, Second Edition (KBIT-2; M = 99.28, SD = 16.48). The target participants’ behaviors were coded using Noldus Information Technology software. The 5-minute dyad conversations were coded for seconds of eye contact and positive affect. Verbal activity was also coded, including the number of questions, validating statements, commenting statements, topic changes, run-on statements, and social niceties.

Results:  T-tests were conducted to compare the participants’ use of synchronized behaviors at pre- and post-intervention. The duration of synchronized behaviors increased greatly at post-intervention. Following the intervention, when the participants were verbalizing they displayed an increase in synchronous eye contact (t = -3.55, p < .01), as well as positive affect (t = -3.23, p < .01). Additionally, when the participant was verbalizing and displaying positive affect simultaneously, they also displayed a significant increase in eye contact following the intervention (t = -4.20, p < .001).

Conclusions:  Presently, there is little research regarding the efficacy of social skills interventions for adults with ASD. Results of the current study show an overall increase in adults’ use of complex social behaviors following a social skills intervention. These skills can be an indicator of quality conversations, though the skills often need to be explicitly taught to individuals with ASD to increase social functioning. The study shows preliminary evidence that an intervention targeted specifically to adults is successful in increasing these complex social behaviors.