April 7, 2009

Autistic teens benefit from social classes

U.S. researchers say teens with autism spectrum disorders were helped by classes in social skills.

The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, finds the group of high-functioning teens with ASD taking the class improved significantly more than a control group not taking the classes.

Although, typically, developing teens often learn basic social rules through observation of peer behavior and specific instruction from parents, adolescents with autism spectrum disorders often require further instruction, study leader Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, Los Angeles, says in a statement.

The 12 weekly 90-minute classes -- part of a Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills at UCLA -- were given to 33 teens with ASD -- 28 males and five females -- in a small-group format with seven to 10 teens. Each class was very structured with the skills broken into small steps that provided the teens specific actions to take in response to a social situation.

Parents were also required to attend separate, concurrent sessions where they were provided direct instruction and guidance on how to support their child's development.

Parental involvement was mandatory and important, Laugeson says.