Interventions Addressing Social Impairment in Autism


Children with an autism spectrum disorder have significant impairment in social skills. This area of development has also been the focus of many intervention studies. In this article we review intervention studies published over the past two years. Three topical areas were addressed in current interventions: social skills knowledge, peer relationships, and joint attention/joint engagement. Younger children most often received interventions on joint attention/joint engagement and older, higher functioning children received interventions on social knowledge and peer relationship development. Both single subject research designs and group designs were reviewed. One advancement was that more randomized controlled trials were reported, as well as effectiveness trials in the community. Study quality was also rated. More group than single subject designs were rated as adequate or strong in quality. Overall, moderate to large effects were found for interventions targeting joint attention/joint engagement and peer relationships with mixed effects on interventions targeting social skills knowledge. Future studies should focus on isolating the active ingredients of interventions and include broader participant representation.

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The preparation of this paper was supported by HRSA AIR-B UA3MC11055. SP was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research - Doctoral Foreign Study Award and an Autism Speaks Weatherstone Fellowship, #7036.


C. Kasari: grants from Autism Speaks and National Institutes of Health; S. Patterson: royalties from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and compensation for travel/accommodations from Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

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Correspondence to Connie Kasari.

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Kasari, C., Patterson, S. Interventions Addressing Social Impairment in Autism. Curr Psychiatry Rep 14, 713–725 (2012).

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  • Interventions
  • Social impairment
  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Social skills
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Single subject research designs
  • Joint attention
  • Joint engagement
  • Peer relationships
  • Social knowledge
  • Psychiatry