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Effectiveness, durability, and clinical correlates of the PEERS social skills intervention in young adults with autism spectrum disorder: the first evidence outside North America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2021

Yi-Ling Chien*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Wen-Che Tsai
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Wen-Hao Chen
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Chi-Liang Yang
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Susan Shur-Fen Gau
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
Wei-Tsuen Soong
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Elizabeth Laugeson*
Affiliation:
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
Yen-Nan Chiu
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
*
Author for correspondence: Yi-Ling Chien, E-mail: ylchien@hotmail.com; Elizabeth Laugeson, E-mail: elaugeson@mednet.ucla.edu
Author for correspondence: Yi-Ling Chien, E-mail: ylchien@hotmail.com; Elizabeth Laugeson, E-mail: elaugeson@mednet.ucla.edu

Abstract

Background

Despite the fact that social deficits among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are lifelong and impact many aspects of personal functioning, evidence-based programs for social skills training were not available until recently. The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) has been shown to effectively improve social skills for adolescents on the spectrum across different social cultures. However, the effectiveness for young adults beyond North America has yet to be examined. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of the PEERS intervention in Taiwanese young adults with ASD, and examine its durability and clinical correlates.

Methods

We recruited 82 cognitively-able young adults with ASD, randomized to the PEERS treatment or treatment-as-usual.

Results

Following treatment, significant improvement was found in aspects of social deficits, autism severity, social interaction anxiety, empathy, and social skills knowledge either by self-report or coach-report. Additionally, communicative behaviors rated by observers improved throughout the sessions, showing a trend toward more appropriate eye contact, gestures, facial expression during conversation, and appropriate maintenance of conversation and reciprocity. Most effects maintained at 3-month and 6-month follow-ups. The improvement of social deficits was positively correlated with baseline severity, while gains in social skills knowledge were positively correlated with IQ. The improvement of social deficits, autism severity, and empathy were positively correlated with each other.

Conclusion

Overall, the PEERS intervention appears to effectively improve social functioning in Taiwanese young adults with ASD. Improvement of social response and knowledge may be predicted by baseline severity and intelligence respectively.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Effectiveness, durability, and clinical correlates of the PEERS social skills intervention in young adults with autism spectrum disorder: the first evidence outside North America
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