ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006: 12:15 PM-1:30 PM
Narragansett Ballroom A
#1866- Social Skills Groups for Children and Adolescents with Asperger's Disorder
This presentation provides a description of the development and implementation of social skills groups for children and adolescents with Aspergerís Disorder and related social deficits. The presentation includes a brief overview of the core deficits of Aspergerís Disorder, steps to establishing a group program, skills to target across the age span during the social skills program, teaching strategies, samples of group sessions and teaching materials, and video segments from previous groups.

Presenter:Kelley Harrison Pistacchio, PhD, Clinical, psychologist, The Groden Center, Inc., Clinical Director, Community Support Services Department - Dr. Pistacchio received her PhD in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1991. She was the Assistant Director of the Child and Family Therapy Clinic at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore MD for 8 years. In 1999, she joined the Groden Center as Director of the Community Support Services program. Dr. Pistachhio specializes in the assessment and treatment of children with behavior disorders and developmental disabilities. She provides consultation services to local school districts and has developed and facilitated several social skills programs for children, adolescents, and adults with Asperger's Disorder.
 
Impairment in social communication is a core deficit in children with Asperger's Disorder (A.D.). Additionally, these children present with deficits in the areas flexible behavior and stress management. Several behavioral intervention strategies have been developed to address social skills deficits in the Pervasive Developmental Disorders population (Stahmer et.al., 2003). With the increased incidence of the PDD population in general, there is even greater need for services to address the special needs of these individuals. Social skills groups not only provide the setting within which specific communication, peer interaction, and coping skills can be taught, but also provide great opportunities for real friendship development and a place where children and teens feel supported and accepted for who they are. This presentation focuses on the implementation of social skills groups developed for children and adolescents with Asperger's Disorder and related social deficits. The presentation includes a brief overview of the core deficits of Asperger's Disorder, steps to establishing a group program, skills to target in across the age span during the social skills program, teaching strategies, samples of group sessions and teaching materials, and video segments from previous groups.

The specific content will include the following:

A. Characteristics of Asperger's Disorder: 1. Social communication deficits 2. Difficulties with flexibility 3. Anxiety and difficulties managing stress 4. Common strengths

B. Assessment and Individualization

C. Establishment of a social skills groups

D. Identification of skills to teach

E. Teaching strategies

F. Skills addressed across the age span

G. Sample group sessions for each age group

H. Sample materials and activities for the group

I. Sample materials and activities for home practice

J. Video segments depicting group activities

K. Samples of writings by adolescents with Asperger's Disorder

L. Family involvement

M. Measuring Outcome

N. Generalization of skills

Learning Objectives

Participants will: 1. Be able to define Asperger's Disorder and describe the core characteristics 2. Gain a stronger understanding of the way individuals with Asperger's Disorder think and learn 3. Be able to identify the steps involved in establishing social skills groups 4. Be able to identify the types of social skills that need to be taught to people with Asperger's Disorder across different age groups 5. Be able to describe at least 5 teaching strategies utilized to teach and reinforce the use of social skills 6. Be able to identify 2 strategies for teaching stress management skills 7. Be able to describe the role of family members and other caregivers in social skills development and maintenance

This presentation contributes to best practice in that it describes a program designed to enhance the quality of life for individuals with social skills deficits. The program utilizes positive teaching and behavioral support strategies that are supported in the literature. Assessment and program development is individualized to the degree possible to meet the needs of the individuals enrolled in each group program. Caregivers are involved in the assessment and intervention process. All participants in the program are treated with dignity and respect. Evaluation methods are used to assess program effectiveness and consumer satisfaction. Program evaluation data is utilized to continually improve services.

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