Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Video-Based Group Instruction for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Video-Based Group Instruction for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Article excerpt

Deficits in social skills are a core characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can negatively affect relationships, academics, employment opportunities, independence, and mental health (Bellini, Peters, Benner, & Hopf, 2007). These deficits can be especially difficult for adolescents with ASD because social demands in high school require frequent complex social interactions with a variety of social partners across numerous contexts (Locke, Ishijima, Kasari, & London, 2010). Although social skills training can promote social functioning during adolescence and into adulthood, very few social skills treatments have been identified for this age group (Reichow & Volkmar, 2010). After conducting a rigorous review of social skills treatment research, Reichow and Volkmar identified only three high-quality experimental studies published between 2001 and 2008 targeting social skills treatments for individuals with ASD above 13 years of age. The complexity of social skills required for adolescent interactions combined with relatively few empirical studies documenting effective interventions for adolescents with ASD suggest a need for interventions that lead to the acquisition or improvement of complex social behavior for this group.

COMPLEX SOCIAL BEHAVIOR

A terminological distinction between complex and basic social behavior has been made in the ASD intervention research literature (LeBlanc et al., 2003; Pierce & Schreibman, 1995), though an operational definition for this distinction remains tenuous. We define basic social skills as behaviors consisting of an isolated response to a specific stimulus, such as saying "Hey" when a peer says "Hi." Similarly, a situation wherein an individual with ASD sees a peer playing with a toy and then asks for a turn with the toy would be classified as a basic social skill. Complex social behavior is then defined as a situation where an individual combines multiple responses (i.e., behavioral chain) or engages in a response that facilitates ongoing social interaction. To change the initial example to a complex behavior, additional response requirements could be added such as requiring that the child look and walk toward his peer, stop within 0.5 m to 1.0 m of his peer, and raise his hand to give a high five while saying "Hello." An example of a complex social behavior that facilitates ongoing social interaction would be when the student says "Hey" and asks a follow-up question such as "Did you see the game last night?"

Complex social behaviors tend to be more difficult to teach individuals with ASD for a number of reasons. First, a complex behavior may require the coordination of multiple responses into a behavioral chain. For example, when first teaching a child with ASD to ask to play with a peer, instructors might teach the child the basic behavior of approaching a peer and asking for a turn with a toy using a simple phrase such as "Can I have a turn?" However, in order to increase the odds of success (i.e., obtaining the turn) or to promote ongoing social interaction, an additional response component, such as getting attention by saying "Hi there" or ensuring that the child with ASD sits down near the peer after obtaining the toy, needs to be taught. In addition, complex behaviors may require the child with ASD to assess situations from the perspective of another person, which is often a skill deficit for this group (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985). Last, the natural consequence for many complex social behaviors is additional social interaction (e.g., conversation), which may not be a reinforcing consequence and therefore requires additional consideration of motivating factors necessary to evoke the behavior (e.g., Sarakoff, Taylor, & Poulson, 2001).

Reeve, Reeve, Townsend, and Poulson (2007) provide an example of teaching complex behavior by teaching primary-aged children (i.e., 5 to 6 years old) with ASD to offer help to another person in distress using an intervention package consisting of video modeling, prompting, and reinforcement. …

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