Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Friendships and Social Interactions

Laura Nabors, Renee Hawkins, Andrew Robert Yockey, Stephanie Booker, Amanda Tipkemper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often have difficulty with social interactions. This study aimed to increase social interactions in adolescents with ASD. Teachers developed friendship goals based on social skills outlined in the teaching-family model. Teachers provided reinforcement to students for displaying positive behaviors linked to goals throughout the school day. The current study also examined student, parent, and teacher perceptions of adolescent social interactions using interviews and surveys. During their interviews, adolescents reported that they were often lonely. Parents indicated that their children needed to learn skills to improve peer interactions. Observers used a behavioral system to quantify the types of social interactions displayed by adolescents. After a baseline period, teachers developed an intervention focusing on friendship goals to encourage students to engage in social interactions. The intervention had a limited impact on improving social interactions. The findings for the current study indicated limited improvement in social interactions resulting from the teacher-directed intervention. Parents, adolescents, and teachers highlighted the need for adolescents with ASDs to find ways to utilize social skills to reduce loneliness and improve peer support. Future research investigating the impact of teaching interaction/friendship skills around the students’ interests (e.g., sports) may help them learn skills to interact more with peers. Additionally, assessing the impact of individualized planning to improve each adolescent’s skills may be more influential in changing social behavior than a system-wide intervention, such as the one implemented in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalAdvances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2017

Keywords

  • Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder
  • Friendships
  • Parents
  • Social interactions
  • Social skills
  • Teachers

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