Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Hillier, A.J., Fish, T., Siegel, J.H., & Beversdorf, D.Q. (2011). Social and vocational skills training reduces self-reported anxiety and depression among young adults on the autism spectrum. The Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 23 (3), 267-276.
Title:  Social and vocational skills training reduces self-reported anxiety and depression among young adults on the autism spectrum
Authors:  Hillier, A.J., Fish, T., Siegel, J.H., & Beversdorf, D.Q.
Year:  2011
Journal/Publication:  The Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Publisher:  Springer
DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10882-011-9226-4
Full text:  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10882-011-9226-4    |   PDF   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Not reported

Structured abstract:

Background:  People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) frequently experience high levels of anxiety and depression. These psychological factors might be related to some of the core challenges seen among those with ASD, including social difficulties. Few previous studies have examined the broader outcomes for social skills interventions, such as a reduction in anxiety and depression, despite the prevalence of these comorbid conditions among those with ASD.
Purpose:  The purpose of paper is to report on a social and vocational skills program specifically designed to address the needs of adolescents and young adults with ASD.
Study sample:  Forty nine young adults on the autism spectrum aged between 18 and 30
Intervention:  Participants received the Aspirations program, which consisted of eight one-hour weekly meetings with small groups of between five to seven participants. The program was designed to improve social and vocational skills. During the program, participants sat in a semi-circle to facilitate discussion. Group members learned and gained greater understanding by sharing personal experiences and listening to those of others, by giving each other advice, and by creating problem solving strategies as a group.
Data collection and analysis:  Participants were asked to complete questionnaires 2-3 weeks before and at the end of their participation in the Aspirations program. Questionnaires included a measure of depression which questioned participants’ feelings of sadness, pessimism, guilt etc. Specific assessment used are: State-Trait Anxiety Inventory; Beck Depression Inventory-II; Peer Relations Index. Data was analyzed non-parametrically due to the type of data (Wilcoxon signed ranks test), and hypotheses were two-tailed.
Findings:  The findings indicate that participants reported significantly reduced anxiety after their participation in the Aspirations program compared to before with lower scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Participants also reported significantly reduced depression after participating in our program compared to before with lower scores on the Beck Depression Inventory-II. Responses on the Peer Relations Index (Hudson 1992) were higher post- Aspirations compared to pre-Aspirations indicating improvement in attitudes and feelings toward peers, although this did not reach significance.
Conclusions:  To conclude, following the intervention program participants reported significantly lower depression and anxiety. Responses on a measure of peer relationships were also improved post-intervention, although this did not reach significance. Although preliminary, the findings demonstrate the broader, positive impact that such programs may have.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Interventions:  Peer mentor