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Review of social skills training groups for youth with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.

Cappadocia, M. & Weiss, J. (2011). Review of social skills training groups for youth with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 70-78.

Objective:   This article is a comparative literature review that investigated the components and results of published research on three different types of social skills training groups.  The authors analyze the published research on (1) traditional social skills training groups, (2) cognitive behavioral training groups, and (3) parent-inclusive social skills training groups. 

Method:  All reviewed studies focused on social skills training for children and youth with Aspergers Syndrome or High Functioning Autism.  The authors findings for each type of social skills group are summarized  below.

Traditional Social Skill Training Groups (SSTG)

With traditional SSTG, instruction is provided to students without parental involvement or behavioral therapy.  Several different social skills curricula were utilized targeting specific age appropriate social skills.  In all of the studies evaluated, students receiving social skills training were between the ages of 12-17 and were exposed to 8-18 hours of social skills instruction.  In pre and post assessment, most students made progress with the social skills curriculum that was utilized. Generalization was one area where students were not able to demonstrate mastery.  The reviewers of the research suggest that generalization may be impacted by not involving family members in the social skills training groups.

Social Skill Training Groups with Cognitive Behavioral Orientation (SSTG-CB)

In the published research, most of the SSTG-CB groups were much larger in size than in the traditional SSTG.  In addition, students participated in these training groups for 50-180 hours.  This is a large increase from the number of hours students in the SSTG received social skills instruction.  In pre and post parent and teacher assessment measures, it was reported that students made progress in the acquisition of new social skills.  In addition, two of the researchers suggest that students made improvements in adaptability and in the reduction of atypical behaviors. 

Social Skills Training Group with Parent Component (SSTG-PC)

In this type of social skills training group the focus is on the student as well as the parent and family.  Parent support can included parent training groups, parent support groups, and social skills fact sheets for parents to review. Intensity of instruction with SSTG-PC ranged from 16-30 weeks.  While students in these groups made progress learning skills in an analogue context, pre and post measures from parents again suggest that some skills did not generalize into the home setting.

Conclusion:  This review of the literature looked at the impact on social skill instruction using three different social skills intervention models.  In all of the studies reviewed there were no commonalities between the social skill curriculums that were used.  While most of the studies used a pre and post measure to assess effectiveness of the type of social skill group implemented, no study demonstrated that skills were fully generalized from the treatment setting into the students’ home environment.  Further research should investigate teaching social skills in a manner that promotes skill transfer to the settings where children are required to use these skills.