, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 135-150
Date: 03 Jan 2008

Children with Autism and Their Friends: A Multidimensional Study of Friendship in High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Abstract

This study of Israeli and American preadolescent children examined characteristics of friendship in 44 children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) compared to 38 typically developing children (TYP), as they interacted with a close friend Participants were 8–12 years of age (HFASD: Israel, n = 24; USA, n = 20; TYP: Israel, n = 23; USA, n = 15), and were matched on SES, receptive language vocabulary, child age, and gender (each study group included one girl). Multidimensional assessments included: individual behaviors of target children and observed child–friend interactions during construction and drawing scenarios; target child’s and friend’s self-perceived mutual friendship qualities; and mother-reported characteristics (friendship’s duration/frequency; friend’s age/gender/disability status). Overall, children with HFASD displayed a number of differences on individual and dyadic friendship measures. Both age and verbal abilities affected friendship behaviors. Children with HFASD and their friends perceived friendship qualities similarly, suggesting that preadolescents with HFASD have capacities for interpersonal awareness. Between-group similarities also emerged on several complex social behaviors, suggesting that friendship follows a developmental trajectory in autism and may enhance social interaction skills in autism.