Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 596–606 | Cite as

Parent-Assisted Social Skills Training to Improve Friendships in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Elizabeth A. Laugeson
  • Fred Frankel
  • Catherine Mogil
  • Ashley R. Dillon
Original Paper


This study examines the efficacy of a manualized parent-assisted social skills intervention in comparison with a matched Delayed Treatment Control group to improve friendship quality and social skills among teens 13–17 years of age with autism spectrum disorders. Targeted skills included conversational skills, peer entry and exiting skills, developing friendship networks, good sportsmanship, good host behavior during get-togethers, changing bad reputations, and handling teasing, bullying, and arguments. Results revealed, in comparison with the control group, that the treatment group significantly improved their knowledge of social skills, increased frequency of hosted get-togethers, and improved overall social skills as reported by parents. Possibly due to poor return rate of questionnaires, social skills improvement reported by teachers was not significant. Future research should provide follow-up data to test the durability of treatment.


Social skills Autism Asperger’s Disorder Friendship Adolescents PEERS 



The authors would like to thank Clare Gorospe, Jilly Chang, Bobbie Celaya, Henry Kimmel, Emily Chen, Thao Trinh, Svetlana Gerzon, Robin Toblin, Shannon Denny, Renee Sloane, Natashia Lewis, and Brooke Martin for their valuable assistance on this study. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the families who participated in this study. This research was supported by NIH Training Grant #T32-MH17140, Andrew Leuchter, Principal Investigator. The writing of this paper was partially supported by NIMH Grant #1U54MH068172, Fred Frankel, Project Principal Investigator. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


  1. Baron-Cohen, S., Hoekstra, R., Knickmeyer, R., & Wheelwright, S. (2006). Adolescent autism spectrum quotient (AQ)–Adolescent Version. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(3), 343–350. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0073-6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauminger, N., & Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism. Child Development, 71, 447–456. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baxter, A. (1997). The power of friendship. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 5(2), 112–117.Google Scholar
  4. Buhrmester, D. (1990). Intimacy of friendship, interpersonal competence, and adjustment during preadolescence and adolescence. Child Development, 61, 1101–1111. doi: 10.2307/1130878.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bukowski, W. M., Hoza, B., & Boivin, M. (1994). Measuring friendship quality during pre- and early adolescence: the development and psychometric properties of the Friendship Qualities Scale. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 11(3), 471–484. doi: 10.1177/0265407594113011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burack, J. A., Root, R., & Zigler, E. (1997). Inclusive education for students with autism: reviewing ideological, empirical, and community considerations. In D. J. Cohen & F. Volkmar (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (pp. 796–807). Wiley: New York.Google Scholar
  7. Capps, L., Sigman, M., & Yirmiya, N. (1996). Self-competence and emotional understanding in high-functioning children with autism. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 137–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Constantino, J. N. (2005). Social responsiveness scale. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  9. Frankel, F. (1996). Good friends are hard to find: help your child find, make, and keep friends. Los Angeles: Perspective Publishing.Google Scholar
  10. Frankel, F., Mintz, J. (2008). Measuring the quality of play dates. Available from UCLA Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program, 300 Medical Plaza, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  11. Frankel, F., & Myatt, R. (2003). Children’s friendship training. New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Frankel, F., & Myatt, R. (2007). Parent-assisted friendship training for children with autism spectrum disorders: effects associated with psychotropic medication. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 37, 337–346. doi: 10.1007/s10578-007-0053-x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frankel, F., Myatt, R., & Cantwell, D. P. (1995). Training outpatient boys to conform with the social ecology of popular peers: Effects on parent and teacher ratings. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 24, 300–310. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp2403_7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frankel, F., Myatt, R., Cantwell, D. P., & Feinberg, D. T. (1997). Parent assisted children’s social skills training: Effects on children with and without attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 1056–1064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldstein, A. P., & McGinnis, E. (2000). Skill streaming the adolescent: new strategies and perspectives for teaching prosocial skills. Champaign: Research Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gralinski, J. H., & Kopp, C. (1993). Everyday rules for behavior: mother’s requests to young children. Developmental Psychology, 29, 573–584. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.29.3.573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gresham, F. M., & Elliott, S. (1990). The social skills rating system. MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  18. Gresham, F. M., Sugai, G., & Horner, R. H. (2001). Interpreting outcomes of social skills training for students with high-incidence disabilities. Exceptional Children, 67(3), 331–345.Google Scholar
  19. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. (Available from P. O. Box 1965, Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520, USA).Google Scholar
  20. Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (2005). Kaufman brief intelligence test–second edition. Circle Pines, Minnesota: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  21. Laugeson, E. A., Frankel, F.(2006). Test of Adolescent Social Skills Knowledge. Available from UCLA Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program, 300 Medical Plaza, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  22. Le Couteur, A., Lord, C., & Rutter, M. (2003). The autism diagnostic interview—revised (ADI-R). Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  23. Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P. D., & Risi, S. (2001). Autism diagnostic observation schedule. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  24. Marriage, K. J., Gordon, V., & Brand, L. (1995). A social skills group for boys with Asperger’s syndrome. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 29, 58–62. doi: 10.3109/00048679509075892.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McGuire, K. D., & Weisz, J. R. (1982). Social cognition and behavior correlates of preadolescent chumship. Child Development, 53, 1478–1484. doi: 10.2307/1130074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Miller, P. M., & Ingham, J. G. (1976). Friends, confidants, and symptoms. Social Psychiatry. Sozialpsychiatrie. Psychiatrie Sociale, 11, 51–58. doi: 10.1007/BF00578738.Google Scholar
  27. Nelson, J., & Aboud, F. E. (1985). The resolution of social conflict between friends. Child Development, 56, 1009–1017. doi: 10.2307/1130112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. O’Connor, M. J., Frankel, F., Paley, B., Schonfeld, A. M., Carpenter, E., Laugeson, E., et al. (2006). A controlled social skills training for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 639–648. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.4.639.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ozonoff, S., & Miller, J. N. (1995). Teaching theory of mind: a new approach to social skills training for individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25, 415–433. doi: 10.1007/BF02179376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rubin, Z., & Sloman, J. (1984). How parents influence their children’s friendships. In M. Lewis (Ed.), Beyond the dyad (pp. 223–250). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  31. Sigman, M., & Ruskin, E. (1999). Continuity and change in the social competence of children with autism, Down syndrome, and developmental delays. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 64, 114. doi: 10.1111/1540-5834.00010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sparrow, S., Balla, D., & Cicchetti, D. V. (2005). The vineland adaptive behavior scales (2nd ed.). Circle Pines, Minnesota: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  33. Tse, J., Strulovitch, J., Tagalakis, V., Meng, L., & Fombonne, E. (2007). Social skills training for adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1960–1968. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0343-3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wechsler, D. (2003). Wechsler intelligence test for children (4th ed.). San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  35. Winer, B. J. (1971). Statistical principles in experimental design. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  36. Wolfberg, P. J., & Schuler, A. L. (1993). Integrated play groups: a model for promoting the social and cognitive dimensions of play in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 23, 467–489. doi: 10.1007/BF01046051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Laugeson
    • 1
  • Fred Frankel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Catherine Mogil
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ashley R. Dillon
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.UCLA Center for Community Mental HealthLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations