Socialization Education and Learning for the Internet (SELFI): A Pilot Intervention Program for Online Social Skills for Adults with ASD
Objectives: The objective of this study was to test the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an eight session intervention targeting online social skills, specifically for adults with ASD.
Methods: In this pilot study, twelve young adults with ASD and average cognitive ability are scheduled to participate. SELFI is an 8-week socialization intervention aimed at systematically improving individual’s positive social impression by targeting their interactions, responses, and initiations online. Four participants have completed the program thus far. The package placed a specific focus on modeling, teaching, and reinforcing skill use, common strategies that are often employed in in-person autism social skill interventions. Clients completed a battery of psychosocial measures before and following intervention and at a 3 months follow-up. Screenshots and other data from participants’ social media accounts were gathered and coded for quantitative and qualitative indicators of appropriateness.
Results: To assess for treatment feasibility, data regarding the study’s recruitment, treatment fidelity, attrition, and participant attendance will be analyzed. Recruitment for the current study is feasible, with ample response to recruitment advertisements and adequate enrollment. A fidelity checklist was completed during each session to monitor adherence to the established intervention protocol, with treatment fidelity falling consistently above 95%. There has been no participant attrition from the study and participants attended 100% of scheduled sessions. Subjective ratings of screenshot and online activity data made by raters masked to study time point and hypotheses are indicative of improvements in both quality and quantity indicators after completion of the program.
Conclusions: Preliminary data analysis suggests that the online social skills treatment intervention is feasible and may lead to positive gains in effective use of online social strategies and guidelines. These results suggest that SELFI may be a feasible approach to teaching online social skills to cognitively able individuals with ASD. This innovative format has the potential to target an area of communication that has not been focused on with individuals with autism previously. Future directions include a randomized controlled trial to systematically test the intervention and its long-term impacts on online communication and friendships.