Social skills improvement in children with high-functioning autism: a pilot randomized controlled trial
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High-functioning autism (HFA) is characterized by persistent impairment in social interaction despite the absence of mental retardation. Although an increasing number of group-based programs for the improvement of social skills have been described, randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate their efficacy. To compare the effect of a Social Skills Training Group-based Program (SST-GP) and a Leisure Activities Group-based Program (LA-GP) on the perception of facial emotions and quality of life (QoL) in young people with HFA. Eligible patients were children and adolescents with HFA. Participants were randomized to the SST or LA group. The primary outcome was defined as an improvement of 2 points in error rates for facial emotion labeling (DANVA2) from baseline. After the 6-month training period, the SST Group made fewer errors in labeling anger on adult faces, whereas error rates in the LA Group remained stable. Progress in the ability to recognize anger in the SST Group was due to better recognition of low intensity stimuli on adult faces. QoL increased in the SST Group in the dimension of school environment, as a marker of the transfer of skills acquired in the treatment setting to their use in the community. The SST-GP had higher efficacy than the LA-GP. Data justify replication using larger samples.
KeywordsHigh-functioning autism Social skills training Facial emotion recognition Quality of life Controlled trials
This work was partially supported by a grant awarded by the first author of this paper from Pfizer Foundation. The authors are very grateful to the participating families and they also thank S. Nowicki for his valuable comments. Special thanks are extended to C. Boy and P. Antoine for their help with the bibliographical research, to Valerie Macioce for her careful reading of the draft and to C. Souche, F Séganti, and M Liratni for the collection of the data.
Conflict of interest
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