Autism and social skills

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Autism and social skills

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A really common question that parents have that have a child with autism spectrum disorder is what they can do to improve their social skills. We know that social deficits, unfortunately, are one of those hallmark features of autism. And we know that social skills training has become a very popular method of treatment for these kids. But unfortunately, the research is showing that most of these programs, or a lot of these programs, really don't tend to be that effective, unfortunately. So you want to be a good consumer as a parent when you're looking for social skills treatment. And a couple things that you need to look for relate to what we call evidence-based treatments. So you want to actually make sure that the treatment that you're seeking, that social skills group, is actually effective and that there's some kind of evidence that shows that it's effective, maybe it's through research or their own tracking of progress. But there needs to be evidence that it actually works. The other thing that you want to look for is whether or not there's parent involvement in the treatment. We know that these groups only meet one or two hours a week, and that's not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. And so as a parent, you want to learn to become a social coach to your kid, so that should be another important part of treatment. And then once you start improving the social skills of your kids, you're gonna need to help them find a source of friends, essentially. And that involves getting them enrolled in extracurricular activities or clubs or sports where they can meet other kids that they have common interests with. And then from there, you need to help them organize play dates or encourage get-togethers so that they can continue to develop these meaningful friendships with these new kids.

Watch Video: Autism and social skills by Liz Laugeson, PsyD, ...

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Liz Laugeson, PsyD

Psychologist & Author

Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  Dr. Laugeson is the Director of The Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance, which is a collaborative research initiative between The Help Group and the UCLA Semel Institute, dedicated to developing and expanding applied clinical research in the treatment of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.  She is also the Director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic, which is an outpatient hospital-based clinic providing parent-assisted social skills training for adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other social impairments. 

Dr. Laugeson has been a principal investigator and collaborator on a number of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigating social skills training for youth with developmental disabilities from preschool to early adulthood and is the co-developer of an evidence-based social skills intervention for teens and young adults known as PEERS. She was the two-time recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the NIH from 2004-2007, recipient of the Semel Scholar Award for Junior Faculty Career Development in 2008, and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Pepperdine University in 2010. Dr. Laugeson has presented her research at international conferences throughout the world including the U.S., Canada, England, Italy, and Australia. Her work has been featured on national and international media outlets such as People Magazine, USA Today, the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

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