Category: Treatment - Other

Symposium

Electrophysiological and Sociometric Outcomes of a Social Competence Intervention for Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Cobalt 501, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders | Social Skills Training | Psychophysiology
Presentation Type: Symposium

Group-based social skills interventions (GSSIs) are the most widely-used treatment approach for social deficits among youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but are highly susceptible to nonspecific treatment confounds (e.g., exposure to peers, time spent in group; Gates et al., 2017). Thus, a randomized controlled trial using an Attention Control (AC) design (Chambless & Hollon, 2008) is needed to determine intervention specificity, yet none has been conducted in GSSIs for ASD youth. Socio-Dramatic Affective-Relational Intervention (SDARI; Lerner et al., 2011) is a GSSI that has shown effects across multiple studies (see McMahon et al., 2013); however, like most GSSI studies, most outcomes were based on parent- or self-report. It is not clear whether less subjective outcomes, such as peer-reported sociometric status and neural biomarkers of ASD-related deficits (EEG-indexed N170 event-related potentials [ERP] related to face processing; McPartland et al., 2011), can be affected by GSSIs. To allow for identification of such effects specific to SDARI, this study utilized the randomized AC design.


39 youth (Mage=12.39, SDage=2.99; 30 male) with IQ≥70 and ASD diagnoses were randomly assigned to 10-week SDARI or the AC condition. At pre- and post-test, a sociometric interview (Coie et al., 1982) was administered assessing friendship, liking/disliking, and desire to play again regarding the peers within their group. The N170 ERP component was extracted from an emotional faces task.


ANCOVA-of-change revealed that the SDARI group showed greater improvements in sociometrics (peers disliked each other less [B=-.28, p<.001] and showed a greater desire to play with each other again [B=.49, p=.001]) and evidenced accelerated N170 latency (B=-13.86, p=.04), relative to the AC group.


Results suggest that even after controlling for nonspecific treatment effects, participating in SDARI led to improvements in peer relationships and faster N170 latency in youth with ASD. These findings support the notion that neural function in ASD is experience-dependent and can become more efficient in social information processing following treatment during this developmental period.

Erin Kang

Stony Brook University

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