While the diagnosis rate for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for 14- to 17-year-olds has more than doubled in the past five years, very few strategies have been found to help these teens develop the social skills they need to be successful, researchers note.
“Teaching social skills to adolescents with ASD has to be effective and practical,” said Joshua Plavnick, Ph.D., assistant professor of special education at MSU. “Using video-based group instruction regularly could promote far-reaching gains for students with ASD across many social behaviors.”
Previous studies have shown autistic kids are more likely to pay attention when an innovative technology delivers information, he noted.
That’s why for this study, the research team used laptops and iPads to offer group video instruction on social behaviors, such as inviting a classmate to join an activity, to autistic teens between the ages of 13 and 17.
One facilitator showed four students video footage of people helping one another clean up a mess, for example, and then gave them opportunities to practice the same skills in the classroom.
According to the researchers, the students demonstrated a rapid increase in the level of complex social behaviors each time video-based group instruction was used. Students sustained those social behaviors at high levels, even when the videos were used less often, the researchers added.
The students’ parents also completed anonymous surveys and indicated high levels of satisfaction, the researchers report. One parent reported that their child started asking family members to play games together, a skill the teen had never before displayed at home.
Most schools do not have the staff to provide one-on-one help for students with autism, Plavnick said.
“Video-based group instruction is important, given the often limited resources in schools that also face increasing numbers of students being diagnosed with ASD,” he concluded.
The study was published in the journal Exceptional Children.
Source: Michigan State University