Email Address

In the field below enter the email address where you received the invitation letter.

Set & Continue

ABA BEHAVIORAL-BASED SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP: Young children learn to interact with one another



Evidence-Based research on ABA:

  • A comprehensive peer network intervention to improve social communication of children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized trial in kindergarten and first grade.1
    Researchers randomized 95 kindergarten students to either a two-year social communication intervention or a control group that did not receive the intervention. In the intervention group, two neuro-typical peers rotated with each child with ASD to form a triad (2 peers to one focus child). Peers were selected based on teacher recommendation of children who had (1) good school attendance, (2) high social status (liked by majority of classmates), (3) age-appropriate social skills, and (4) willingness to participate. Pairs of peers rotated from one child to another each day. In addition, about 3 times a week, social groups were assembled to teach social and communication skills using games and age-appropriate table-top play activities (e.g., card games, popular board games). Skills taught in the groups included (a) requests and sharing, (b) comments about one’s own play activities, or personal actions on objects, (c) comments about others’ play activities, or peer actions on objects, (d) niceties such as saying please and thank-you, and giving compliments, and (e) ideas about setting up games and rules (‘‘Ways to Play’’). Sessions started with an adult-led discussion about the target social communication skill, practice of the target skill using written and picture cues, and child-peer practice with adult feedback. These discussions were followed by play/game activities with peer prompting of skill use, and then five-minute teacher reinforcement and feedback of skill use.

    Children in the intervention group displayed significantly more initiations to peers than did the comparison group during non-treatment observation. Treatment session data showed significant growth in total communications over baseline levels for the children in the intervention group. Children in treatment also showed more growth in language and adaptive communication. Finally, teachers’ ratings of prosocial skills revealed significantly greater improvements for the intervention group. highly structured one-on-one treatment for children on the autism spectrum that was developed at UCLA in the 1980s by Ivar Lovaas. Based on the results of this technique, which deconstructs every human social behavior into sequences of tiny steps and seeks to teach children the steps using behavioral therapy tools, Lovaas claimed that nearly half of the children who received this therapy in its full form recovered. The claim created considerable controversy, and examination of the treatment and Lovaas’ data identified a number of problems. More recent case studies, and two systematic reviews of those studies, have shown that although a certain percentage of individuals with the diagnosis do recover (have successful, functional lives), the rate of recovery may not be higher among individuals who underwent ABA or other intensive behavioral-based therapies than among those who received much less intensive types of therapy. The article follows 5 young people and their families from birth through their diagnoses and treatment; 4 of the 5 have recovered. The fifth, a young man, never learned to speak and now resides in a group home, in spite of intensive one-on-one therapy, yet another is a popular and accomplished honor student in his senior year of high school, in spite of no intensive therapy. Nothing in the studies seems to suggest what might predict whether any one child will benefit more from intensive therapy or even outgrow the diagnosis on his or her own.

  • Impact of social communication interventions on infants and toddlers with or at-risk for autism: A systematic review.2
    Morgan and colleagues conducted a systematic review of studies on social communication interventions for children age three years or younger, with or at risk for ASD. The review included seven group studies and nineteen single-subject studies (enrolling a total of 427 children, ranging in age from 10 to 36 months). Interventions varied widely, including Early Start Denver Model, reciprocal imitation training, pivotal response training (PRT), and video modeling. The studies reported primarily positive effects of the interventions on social communication skills in terms of both growth rates and gain scores but not emerging language and language-related cognitive skills. Maintenance of skills after the interventions ended varied by the types of skills, and reporting of generalization results was limited. Problems with research design were noted for both single-subject (e.g., lack of assessor blinding to treatment) and group studies (e.g., use of convenience sampling).

  • Parent-implemented social intervention for toddlers with autism.3
    Researchers randomized parents of 82 toddlers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to two types of parent training for the Early Social Interaction (ESI) Project. One group of parents were offered individual training 2 or 3 times per week at home or in the community, while the other group was offered group training once per week in a clinic. All ESI trainings taught parents how to embed strategies to support their child’s social communication throughout everyday activities. The ESI intervention, based on the manualized Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Supports (SCERTS) curriculum, lasted nine months. Parents were expected to employ the techniques with the child at least 25 hours per week.

    Standardized validated measures were used to assess autism symptoms, social-communication skills, behavior, motor skills, and language. Individual-ESI was statistically superior on six child outcomes, including significantly greater improvement on social components of communication and receptive language. However, children in both groups displayed worsening in restricted repetitive behavior and both groups failed to progress in motor skills compared to norms. The authors conclude that findings support the efficacy of individual-ESI compared with group-ESI on child outcomes.

General Guides:

1 Kamps D, Thiemann-Bourque K, Heitzman-Powell L, et al. A comprehensive peer network intervention to improve social communication of children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized trial in kindergarten and first grade. Journal of Autism & Childhood Schizophrenia. June 2015, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 1809-1824.

2 Morgan LJ, Rubin E, Coleman JJ, Frymark T, Wang BP, Cannon LJ. Impact of social communication interventions on infants and toddlers with or at-risk for autism: A systematic review. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities 2014;29(4):246-56.

3 Wetherby AM, Guthrie W, Woods J, Schatschneider C, Holland RD, Morgan L, et al. Parent-implemented social intervention for toddlers with autism: an RCT. Pediatrics. 2014;134(6):1084-93.

Hide Comments