Adapted Social Skills Program Improved Social Knowledge, Responsiveness, and Engagement

August 29, 2022

16-week PEERS® Program Aided Young Adults with ASD and/or Mild Intellectual Impairment

PEERS®, the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, is a 16-week evidence-based, parent/caregiver-assisted social skills training program.  The program aims to teach adolescents and young adults on the spectrum to make and keep friends, develop and maintain romantic relationships, as well as manage conflict and rejection. Previously, PEERS® demonstrated improved social skills for young adults with autism and/or mild intellectual impairment. Although, one identified downside of PEERS® is the significant time commitment needed from parents to execute the program correctly. Recently, an Australian study investigated the experiences and evaluated the efficacy and acceptability of a newly adapted PEERS® program. In this current study, young adults with autism and/or mild intellectual impairment still participated in the regularly scheduled 16-week (90-minute per session) program. However, in this newly adapted program, parents and PEERS® social coaches attended fewer condensed sessions (four, two-hour sessions versus 16, 90-minute sessions) where they learned program content to support their young adults’ social skill development at home and in the community. Throughout the research, many of the young adult participants expressed a desire for autonomy from their parents.  During these times, PEERS® social coaches were utilized to practice certain skills instead of the participant’s parents. At the end of the intervention, pre-post assessment tools were utilized to evaluate the program’s efficacy. The study’s authors discovered that while the adapted program still required a substantial time commitment from young adult participants and parents, it was deemed acceptable and worthwhile. Overall, the program had a 93% attendance rate across all sessions. This study’s results suggest that PEERS® was effective in improving social skills in young adults with autism and/or mild intellectual disability. Interestingly, the young adults’ perception of their social functioning did not change post-intervention, but their knowledge of social skills content improved significantly. Also enhanced were parents’ perceptions of their young adults’ social responsiveness. 

Original Study

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