Seeing Eye to Eye? Discrepancies in Perceived Social Skill Competency and Motivation Among Adolescents with ASD and Their Parents

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
A. Osuna, T. W. Vernon, A. R. Miller and J. A. Ko, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
Background: Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have limited insight regarding the quality of their interactions and perceived level of social competency (Lerner et al. 2012). As a result, they may over-estimate their level of social success and quality of relationships compared to third party observers, such as their parents. This trend may partially explain the reluctance that some individuals with ASD have to engage in social skill improvement efforts, as they already view themselves as socially competent with an established social network. Understanding this discrepancy may shed light onto the underlying vulnerabilities in social insight that could provide guidance towards removing barriers to treatment utilization and inform methods for promoting more accurate social perception.

Objectives: To examine differences in pre-intervention scores and resulting treatment gains on parent and adolescent socialization measures in the context of an RCT for the START intervention model.

Methods: A total of 35 adolescents, aged 12 to 17 (mean age: 13.46) with ASD participated in the 20-week Social Tools And Rules for Teens (START) Intervention Model. Individuals had an IQ over 70 and a confirmed diagnosis of ASD. Each family completed two socialization measures with corresponding parent and adolescent-report versions– the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale (SSIS-RS) and the Social Motivation & Competencies Scale (SMCS). The SSIS is a commonly-used measure of social skills, including communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement, and self-control (Gresham & Elliott, 2008). The SMCS, developed for the purpose of this study, contains items pertaining to comfort in social interaction, conversation skill use, empathy, friendships, appropriate behavior, social contact, and social interest. SSIS-RS and SMCS data were collected before and after intervention. Pre-intervention scores and change scores were examined using paired sample t-tests.

Results: Prior to intervention, adolescents endorsed significantly higher levels of social skills proficiency based on self-report SSIS-RS total scores compared to corresponding parent-reported SSIS Scores, t(34) = 4.087, p <.001. They also endorsed significantly higher levels of social motivation and competencies based on self-report SMCS raw scores compared to corresponding parent-reported SMCS Raw Scores, t(34) = 8.568, p <.001. There was no significant differences in the pre-to post intervention change scores between groups.

Conclusions: The findings highlight noteworthy discrepancies regarding the adolescents’ social skills, motivation, and competencies. These incongruences may be influenced by the adolescents’ lack of awareness in self-perceived social competency (Morin, 2011) or possibly suggest that parents tend to be more critical raters of their own child’s social competencies.. Furthermore, while there were increases in scores in reported social skill after treatment, the change scores were not significantly different from one another, suggesting that both parties perceived a comparable magnitude of change despite perceiving different baseline levels of social competence.