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Theses Doctoral

Teaching Social Skills to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Kemp, Kalli Ann

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) exhibit impairments in social functioning (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013). Social skills impairments of students with ASD and students with ID should be addressed by teachers using evidence-based strategies (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004; National Research Council, 2001). While several evidence-based strategies that address social skills have been identified in research (e.g. Reichow & Volkmar, 2010; Wong et al., 2014), little is known if teachers use these strategies with students with ASD and students with ID.
The present study used a researcher-designed questionnaire to examine teachers' reported knowledge, use, and attitudes towards evidence-based social skills strategies. This study used word-of-mouth sampling, and was based on teacher reports. Eight research questions were examined in this study. The first two research questions examined if teachers taught students with ASD and students with ID social skills, and if teacher characteristics were associated with whether or not they had taught social skills. The next research questions examined teachers' use of certain social skills strategies, the location, time, and frequency of use of the strategies, and the effectiveness of the strategies. The next research question addressed barriers or reasons that teachers do not use specific social skills strategies, as well as the barriers or difficulties teachers experience with teaching social skills to students with disabilities. Research question five examined the resources and supports teachers identify as needed for teaching social skills. Research questions six and seven examined social skills characteristics of students with ASD and students with ID, and if the characteristics of these students were related to whether or not they had received social skills instruction. Finally, research question eight examined student and teacher factors that are predictive of the students' social skills.
This study found that the majority of teachers reported that they taught social skills, and special education teachers seemed to be more likely to teach social skills than general education teachers. The most popular social skills strategies were prompting, reinforcement, and modeling, which were also ranked as the most effective strategies by teachers. The least frequently used strategies were Pivotal Response Training and video modeling. Teachers used social skills strategies most frequently in the special education classroom and during class instruction time.
The most frequently identified barrier to the implementation of social skill strategies was limited time to design social skills interventions. This related to the most frequently identified resource needed, which was the need for more planning time. Teachers also identified the lack of social skills curricula as a barrier and a needed resource.
Students with ASD and students with ID had social skills scores in the at risk range on the Social Emotional Assets and Resiliencies Scale (SEARS, Merrell, 2011), with the only difference between the two groups on the empathy scale. Two factors were found to predict students SEARS scores, which were having friends and more than 20 functional words.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Intellectual Disabilities-Autism
Thesis Advisors
Chiang, Hsu-Min
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 11, 2015