Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 372–385 | Cite as

An Exploration of the Performance and Generalization Outcomes of a Social Skills Intervention for Adults with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities

  • Edith Walsh
  • Jennifer HollowayEmail author
  • Helena Lydon
  • Aoife McGrath
  • Tracey Cunningham



Deficits in social communication skills present significant challenges for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet few evidence-based social skills interventions exist for adults with ASD and intellectual disabilities. The current study investigated the efficacy of a social skills intervention, which comprised of the Walker Social Skills Curriculum: The ACCESS program (Adolescent Curriculum for Communication and Effective Social Skills), video modeling, and the addition of generalization programming, to target social skills for community inclusion.


A multiple-probe single-case experimental design and pre/post outcome measures were used to evaluate the effects of the social skills intervention on improving social communication skills in six adults with ASD and intellectual disabilities. Participants received 20 intervention sessions, each session delivered for 1.5 h, twice per week. Generalization of target skills was programmed through the inclusion of, (a) training in the natural setting, (b) introducing natural maintaining contingencies, (c) multiple exemplar training, and (d) incorporating social situations and common stimuli from the natural setting in the training sessions.


All participants demonstrated increases in social communication skills with skills generalizing to natural environments. In addition, significant improvements in overall social skills as measured by the SSiS, SRS-2, and the ACCESS Placement Test were shown following the social skills intervention.


The generalization of newly acquired skills varied across participants highlighting that other variables may impact on treatment effects. Therefore, consideration of and support for social skills interventions that program and assess for the generalization of treatment effects are needed. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.


Autism Intellectual disability Social communication skills Adults 


Author Contributions

EW, JH, and HL conceptualized the study and contributed to the interpretation of results, writing, and editing of manuscript. EW collected data and completed analysis. AMG and TC assisted with the execution of the study and data collection. TC also assisted with recruitment.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the National University of Ireland Galway research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Rehab GroupLimerickIreland

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