Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe impairments in communication, social interaction, and repetitive pattern of interest. Children with autism need early social skills support to develop their social interactions and understanding. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and socialization among young children and adolescence is one of the major impairments, along with language individuals have. Social skills groups are prearranged groups with, a direct goal orientated to engage young children and adolescences with the appropriate support, in the development of social skills. Social skills groups for young children and adolescences can be a viable tool, in helping children with ASD to learn how to socialize appropriately. The Socialization of young children with a diagnosis of ASD has shown some positive results.
This pilot study was conducted in response to the heightened awareness and the need for young children with ASD to learn social skills. The parents of autistic children, the children that have a diagnosis of ASD and the facilitators of the groups, will engage the children in social sessions, in hopes to build social relationships. The parents will fill out questionnaires as to the progress they see their children making. This pilot study sets out to answer the following two questions. Is participation in a social skills group beneficial for young children / adolescence with ASD from the child’s, Parents and the facilitator’s perspectives? The second question posed was, is there any improvement in the autistic child’s ability to communicate or interrelate socially.
Based on a review of literature on Autism, a psychologist and a clinical psychologist planed a structured 5-week program, for one-hour sessions, one day a week. Only children with a diagnosis of ASD were invited. The children’s ages ranged from seven to 18. Using the qualitative method, the parental focus group was used to gather data and answer two research questions. Each parent received three questionnaires developed for the purpose of this evaluation. One was a pre- questionnaire, to be completed at the beginning of the groups, the post questionnaire, at the end of groups, and a review questionnaire, to be completed six months following the social skills groups. The questionnaires were used for the parents to rate their child’s current level of difficulties.
Results and Discussions
The high cost of one on one therapy for autistic children has become too high for caregivers and the need for alternative approaches was necessary. Evidence suggested that social skills groups for autistic children would be an alternative Dunlop, Knott and Mackay (2000). The information gathered from parent questionnaires and through observations from the facilitators and the higher functioning adolescents with ASD showed there was a need for social skills programs. Some parents felt their children benefitted and others seen no change.
The feedback was very positive and most of the participants would like the social skills groups to continue. There were several areas identified within the program that needs fine-tuning such as, smaller groups, the level or severity of ASD the children have, longer duration of sessions without summer breaks and addressing how to manage the challenging behaviors some of the autistic children displayed, which prevented them from engaging socially within the groups. There was no time for one on one interaction, to encourage those children that did not socialize
during the five-week program. The facilitators observed this and felt that it was an important issue to address along with the other recommendations above, when planning social skills programs. I choose this article because I am a parent of an autistic child and I am always looking for new treatment methods. I like to stay informed of all the new research on autism to share with my son. I think there is a need to socialize all persons with autism and the ideal of social skills groups cannot hurt; it can enhance the quality of life for the autistic child.