Training peers improves social outcomes for kids with ASD
This NIH study finds that a type of intervention focused on training peers may be more helpful for children with autism than the most common type of intervention, which focuses on training the child with autism directly.
Akinso: Peer training could lead to more effective and long lasting improvements in social skills than interventions directed at children with mild autism spectrum disorder or ASD
Kasari: Just to work with our children with autism on social skills trying to help them get those skills that they need to engage with other children is really just not enough.
Akinso: Dr. Connie Kasari is from UCLA and is the principle investigator for this NIH funded study.
Kasari: The teachers who work with the children the peers who interact with the children, we don't have those environments as very supportive environments then our children can't execute the skills that they've learned. I think using the peers in the classroom is probably the most important finding.
Akinso: The most common type of social skills intervention for children with ASD is direct training of a group of children with social challenges.
Kasari: A very common social skills invention is one that's done off campus in a clinical setting. And that's a social skills group that usually has children from lots of different places that don't really know each other and they follow a set format. And they mostly try to hit on those common social interaction problems that most children will have.
Akinso: Other types of intervention focus on training peers how to interact with classmates who have difficulty with social skills. Both types of intervention have shown positive results in studies, but neither have been effective in community settings. Researchers compared different interventions among 60 children, ages 6-11, with relatively mild ASD. The children were randomly assigned to one of four intervention groups.
Kasari: We tried to test very common interventions that you might see in a school setting. So in one situation we had a skilled adult or therapist work with the child on particular skills that they were having difficulty with. Or we chose three typical peers in the classrooms to actually help all children in the class who might be having social difficulties. So one condition had both of those conditions, both the one on one and the peer and one of the conditions had neither of those conditions.
Akinso: All interventions were given 20 minutes two times a week for six weeks. A follow-up was conducted 12 weeks after the end of the study. Dr. Kasari describes the findings from before and after the follow up.
Kasari: Generally we found that children were less connected to their classmates before the intervention. But afterwards if they received the peer intervention they were more likely to be connected to a peer group. And those connections stayed pretty close to the same even after we had left the school situation.
Akinso: According to Dr. Kasari, the findings suggest that peer-mediated interventions can provide better and more persistent outcomes than child-focused strategies. She added that child-focused interventions may only be effective when paired with peer-mediated invention. For more information, visit www.nimh.nih.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Wally Akinso— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Kasari
Topic: Autism, spectrum, disorder, ASD, children, kids, social, skills
Additional Info: Training peers improves social outcomes for some kids with ASD