Examining the Relationship between Social Anxiety and Quality of Social Skills Among Adolescents with ASD Following the UCLA PEERS® Intervention
Objectives: The present study examines the relationship between social anxiety and improved social skills among adolescents with ASD following a 16-week social skills intervention.
Methods: Participants from two cohorts included 98 adolescents (males=84, females=14) with ASD ranging from 11-17 years of age (M=13.86; SD=1.68) and their parents, who participated in a parent-assisted intervention, and a separate group of 73 adolescents (males=59; females=14) with ASD ranging from 12-18 years of age (M=15.05; SD=1.71), who participated in a school-based intervention. Adolescent participants had clinically-elevated ASD symptoms as determined by the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2; Constantino, 2012) and clinically-elevated social anxiety as determined by the Social Anxiety Scale (SAS; La Greca, 1999). Baseline social anxiety was measured using adolescent- and parent-reported SAS scores prior to intervention. Participants then completed a 16-week parent-assisted or school-based PEERS® social skills intervention. Treatment outcome was assessed by examining parent-reported change in social skills using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham and Elliot, 2008) and change in social responsiveness on the SRS-2 pre- and post-intervention.
Results: Simple linear regressions revealed that baseline adolescent- and parent-reported social anxiety scores were not significantly related to change in social responsiveness on the SRS-2 in the parent-assisted sample (F=.213, p>.10, R2=.002; F=.116, p>.10, R2=.001). Likewise, social anxiety was not predictive of change in social skills (F=.352, p>.10, R2=.004; F=.169, p>.10, R2=.002) or problem behaviors (F=.084 p>.10, R2=.001; F=1.743, p=.190, R2=.019) on the SSIS in the same sample. In the school-based sample, simple linear regressions also revealed that baseline adolescent- and parent-reported social anxiety scores were not significantly related to change in social responsiveness (F=2.201, p=.143, R2=.031; F=.009, p>.10, R2=.000), social skills (F=.490, p>.10, R2=.007; F=.828, p=.366, R2=.012), or problem behaviors (F=.087, p>.10, R2=.001; F(1.72)=.005, p=.945, R2=.000).
Conclusions: Findings reveal that adolescent baseline social anxiety, though a common comorbid symptom of ASD, is not predictive of improvement in social responsiveness or social skills behavior among adolescents with ASD following the PEERS® intervention in parent-assisted and school-based settings. These findings are encouraging in that they suggest that adolescent anxiety does not appear to impact treatment outcome following PEERS®.