An investigation of social skills training for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders within a mainstream school environment

Plumb, Kenneth George

July 2007

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© 2007 Kenneth George Plumb. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are disadvantaged within a learning environment that is not conducive to their cognitive and learning styles (Mesibov and Howley, 2003): this is because they do not possess the necessary social, communication and thinking skills that are required for effective communication and learning to occur within the context of a complex learning environment such as a mainstream school. Indeed, the absence of these cognitive skills within a traditional teaching environment can actually represent a barrier to learning for children with ASD (Mesibov and Howley, 2003).

The main aim of this study was to examine the effect of social skills training on pupils with ASD and determine whether or not the disadvantages of a mainstream education could be mitigated by social skills training; it was also important to establish which particular methods were the most effective within a normal classroom environment.

The training material (IV) contained specific learning targets necessary for social functioning: the methodological framework used was predominantly experimental although some qualitative measures were included. Twelve secondary school pupils (two groups of 6) between the ages of 11 and 15 years took part in this study: the participants were matched as closely as possible in terms of intelligence quotients, attainment levels, gender and behavioural traits; the resulting pairs were then randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition.

A two-group research design was used with one group (Group A) comprising the experimental condition and the other (Group B) acting as a control. Two measuring points were used, Time I and Time 2; the first of these was baseline whilst the other was post intervention. The participants that took part in this study attended the same school which was based in the North East of England.

The findings of the study revealed that there were marked differences between baseline measures and the intervention phase for the experimental group in the acquisition of the social skills targeted: these differences were statistically significant and applied to all eight dependent variables; on the other hand, the dependent measures for the control group or comparison remained relatively unchanged from baseline levels.

Postgraduate Medical Institute, The University of Hull
Wang, Michael
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