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

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth A. Laugeson.

Appendix: Test of Adolescent Social Skills Knowledge (TASSK)

Appendix: Test of Adolescent Social Skills Knowledge (TASSK)


The following items are about making and keeping friends. After you read each item, there will be a couple choices to choose from. Decide which choice is the best by bubbling in the best answer. Only choose one answer per item.

  1. 1.

    The most important part of having a conversation is to:

    • □ Trade information

    • □ Make sure the other person is laughing and smiling

  2. 2.

    The goal of a conversation is to:

    • □ Make the other person like you

    • □ Find common interests

  3. 3.

    One of the rules for having a two-way conversation is:

    • □ To be an interviewer

    • □ Do not be an interviewer

  4. 4.

    When you are FIRST getting to know someone, it is important to be:

    • □ Funny and silly

    • □ Serious

  5. 5.

    When you are calling a friend on the telephone, it is important to:

    • □ Tell them your first and last name and where you go to school

    • □ Have a cover story for calling

  6. 6.

    When you are calling a friend on the telephone, you should:

    • □ Avoid cold calling

    • □ Let them do most of the talking

  7. 7.

    It’s a good idea to try to make friends with:

    • □ Someone who is more popular than you

    • □ Someone who likes the same things as you

  8. 8.

    It’s a good idea to have a peer group because:

    • □ More people will know who you are

    • □ It protects you from bullying

  9. 9.

    When you are trying to join a conversation, the FIRST thing you should do is:

    • □ Watch to observe the conversation

    • □ Make a comment about what they are saying

  10. 10.

    When joining a conversation, you should wait for:

    • □ Someone to invite you to talk

    • □ A pause in the conversation

  11. 11.

    If you try to join a conversation and the people ignore you:

    • □ Move on

    • □ Speak louder and make sure they can hear you

  12. 12.

    If you try to join ten different conversations, on average how many times out of ten are you likely to be rejected:

    • □ 7 out of 10

    • □ 5 out of 10

  13. 13.

    When having a friend over for a get-together at your home:

    • □ You should figure out what you are going to do

    • □ Have your friend choose the activity

  14. 14.

    If you are having a friend over for a get-together and someone else unexpectedly calls that you really like, you should:

    • □ Invite your other friend over

    • □ Tell them that you are busy and will call them later

  15. 15.

    Teens like to play sports with other teens who:

    • □ Score points and play well

    • □ Praise them

  16. 16.

    When people are not playing by the rules, you should:

    • □ Nicely remind them what the rules are

    • □ Do not referee them

  17. 17.

    If another kid teases you or calls you a name, you should:

    • □ Tease the tease

    • □ Tell an adult

  18. 18.

    When someone teases you, the best thing to do is:

    • □ Walk away

    • □ Make fun of what they said

  19. 19.

    If someone is bullying you, the FIRST thing you should do is:

    • □ Get help from an adult

    • □ Avoid the bully

  20. 20.

    If you are trying to change your bad reputation, you should:

    • □ Lay low for a while

    • □ Make sure that people get to know you better

  21. 21.

    The FIRST thing you should do when you get into an argument with a friend is:

    • □ Listen and keep your cool

    • □ Explain your side

  22. 22.

    When a friend accuses you of doing something you did not do:

    • □ Say you are sorry that this happened

    • □ Explain your side until they believe you

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Laugeson, E.A., Frankel, F., Mogil, C. et al. Parent-Assisted Social Skills Training to Improve Friendships in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 39, 596–606 (2009).

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