Social Interaction and Understanding in Autism
Supporting success in mainstream education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders.

Year: 2003

Author: Dunlop, Aline-Wendy, MacKay, Scotland Tommy, Knott, Fiona

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paper draws from a two-year research study with forty-six children and young people on the autistic spectrum, ranging in age from six to 16 years. All were involved in mainstream services, many having a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Of this initial sample, 38 sustained attendance at one of six weekly groups established for developing social interaction and understanding through a programme specially designed for the study. Each of the groups lasted for approximately 16 weeks.

Methods included a variety of standardised measures within an assessment framework, observation and record keeping of group sessions, individual parent ratings and follow-up interviews. Pre-post test evaluation has pointed to highly successful outcomes in terms of statistical analysis, but also in the sense that in many cases they have been personally meaningful and important. Significant effect sizes were obtained for social skills and social competence in comparison with a normative population, and the individual parent ratings showed marked changes in the skills which the groups had targeted.

The paper focuses on the importance of group identity and shared responsibility, the difficulties of sharing interests and planning for them, the capacity of groupwork to support the development of effective social interaction and understanding, and the challenge of generalisation into everyday life.

The results of this study suggest that it has not only made a contribution to the evidence base but that it has also contributed to the quality of life of the children and young people who took part in it, and of their families.