Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Hardesty, Patrick H.

Author's Keywords

Social skills training; Pervasive developmental disorder; ASD; PDD


Autistic children--Rehabilitation; Social skills in children; Autistic children--Behavior modification; Group work in education; Peer-group tutoring of students


Social reciprocity deficits are a core feature of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and a major source of impairment regardless of cognitive or language ability (Carter, Davis, Klin, & Volkmar, 2005). Since these impairments do not naturally remit with age, it is critical to intervene as early as possible to offset potential risk factors (Tantum, 2003). Group training approaches provide children with teaching opportunities with other children and allow for the direct instruction of skills within a structured environment (Bellini, Peters, Benner, & Hopf, 2007). Research in social skills group research has increased, but several questions remain. This study evaluated the outcome of a social skills curriculum for 37 children between the ages of 8 to 14 with a diagnosis of ASD within two different treatment contexts, the camp and clinic model. The camp model simulates a natural setting in which children with ASD spend 5 hours each day for 10 days where social skills are taught through engaging activities and interactions with peers both typical and with ASD. The clinic model, on the other hand, is a one hour a week session spread over 10 to 12 weeks where social skills are taught and practiced while parents observe through a one-way mirror and are trained on the intervention methods. Both clinic and camp model treatments are then compared with a third group who experience both treatments within the clinic and camp setting. Results show that the combined context had the highest treatment effects, followed by the camp model and, finally, the clinic model. Analysis of covariance did not indicate the groups differ from each other significantly in terms of treatment gains. The implications of these results are discussed in terms of translation of research into clinical practice, use of appropriate outcome measures, and generalization of skills through parent training and utilization of training programs within the natural context. While the intervention and results are promising, replication with larger samples and use of a control group are needed.