Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Peggy A. Gallagher, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laua Fredrick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David Houchins, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Christopher Tullis, Ph.D.

Abstract

A lack of social competence is one of the primary characteristics of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This pervasive lack of social competence can cause individuals with ASD to struggle to develop meaningful social relationships with peers and adults across their lifetime. Thus, learning appropriate socialization skills is an essential component in the education of this population. The purpose of the current study was to provide an initial investigation into the effectiveness of a comprehensive social skills training intervention on the social competence of young children with ASD using direct recording methods. Eight students with ASD between the ages of 5 and 7 years, with current placements in self-contained kindergarten or first grade classrooms in the public school setting participated in a 12 week intervention. The intervention implemented was “The Incredible Flexible You: A Social Thinking Curriculum for Preschool and Early Elementary Years” (Hendrix, Palmer, Tarshis, & Winner, 2013), a packaged, multi-sensory social skills training program developed to promote the social competence of young children with ASD. The intervention was presented daily for approximately 20 minutes in a small group school setting. Using a concurrent multiple baseline across participants single-case research design, the research study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the program upon the participant’s positive social initiations, positive social responses, and active engagement during recess. Observational data were collected utilizing both a frequency behavior count system and a timed interval behavioral observation system. Additionally, data were collected via the Autism Social Skills Profile (ASSP; Bellini & Hopf, 2007) through pre- and post-intervention parent forms to determine the effects of the program on the overall social functioning of the participants. Procedural fidelity was collected throughout the research, and social validity was also assessed utilizing the Behavior Intervention Rating Profile (BIRP, Von Brock & Elliott, 1987). Overall, participants made slight gains in social competency, yet the data did not support a functional relation between the intervention and dependent variables. Individual participant progress was discussed in detail. Limitations of the study and implications for practice and future research in social competency for young children with ASD were further discussed.

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