Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders
Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit pathognomonic social deficits (ASD; Hobson, 2013), and are often viewed negatively by their peers (Sasson et al., 2017). Regardless of actual social skill, both ASD youth and their parents view social skills as important (Rankin et al., 2016). Many social skills interventions (SSIs) for youth with ASD focus on a mix of teaching (Weiss & Harris, 2001) social skills and highlighting their importance (Laugeson et al., 2009; Bass & Mulick, 2007). As such, it is important to understand the relative contribution of knowing social skills versus believing that they are important to social outcomes with peers. This is the first study to examine the effect of self-reported social skills and social skills importance ratings on sociometric outcomes of ASD youth. It was hypothesized that social skills and social skills importance ratings would be positively associated with positive sociometric nominations.
Thirty-nine youth (Mage=12.39, SDage=2.99; 30 male) with ADOS-2-confirmed ASD diagnoses were placed in groups of 5-9 children for 10 weeks. At baseline, participants completed a measure of social skills and their importance (SSiS; Gresham & Elliott, 2008). After both the first and last week, participants completed a sociometric interview (Coie et al., 1982) in reference to their peers in the same group. Each child received sociometric ratings from peers on how much they were liked, disliked, seen as a friend, and the object of desired to play again.
Hierarchical multiple regression controlling for baseline sociometric ratings revealed that self-reported importance ratings of social skills predicted fewer nominations of being disliked (b=-.002, p=.005), and being the most disliked person in the group (b=-.007, p=.005), while social skills ratings themselves were not significant predictors of sociometric outcomes (all p>.069). This was driven specifically by self-control, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and empathy (all b<-.030, p < .028). Social skills importance ratings predicted being less disliked (b=-.008, p=.004.), and predicted a reduced instance of being the most disliked person in the group (b=-.006, p=.002), even after controlling for self-reported social skill ratings.
Greater self-reported importance ratings of social skills related to fewer nominations of being both disliked generally and being the most disliked person in the group; self-reported social skills ratings did not. These findings demonstrate that ASD youths’ perceptions of social skills importance predicts peer rated sociometric status over time, thus emphasizing the value of focusing on teaching the importance of social skills (Bass & Mulick, 2007), rather than just the skills themselves, in interventions for ASD youth.
Lee Santore– Research Coordinator, Stony Brook University, North Babylon, New York
Erin Kang– Stony Brook University
Christopher Esposito– Research Assistant, Stony Brook University
Samantha Sommer– Research Coordinator, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
Amanda Stoerback– Stony Brook University
Deborah Gross– Stony Brook University
Matthew Lerner– Assistant Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, & Pediatrics, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York