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Descriptive Assessment of Social Skills for Young Children with Autism


Typical assessment examines pivotal or appropriate skill targets (Peck et al., 1997) ... Peck & colleagues conducted structural analysis (SA) to assess appropriate ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Descriptive Assessment of Social Skills for Young Children with Autism

Descriptive Assessment of Social Skills for Young
Children with Autism
  • Jennifer M. Asmus, Ph.D.
  • Maureen A. Conroy, Ph.D.
  • Crystal N. Ladwig, Ph.D.
  • Jennifer A. Sellers, M.Ed.
  • Brian A. Boyd, M.Ed.
  • University of Florida
  • Supported by U.S. Department of Education
  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative
    Services (H324D020023)
  • Panhandle Autism Society 2.28.04

Presentation Outline
  • Review of relevant literature
  • Overview of research project
  • Details of descriptive assessment component
  • Forms are under development and have not been
    validated for use
  • Please do not distribute
  • Practice with 2 descriptive instruments
  • Snapshot assessment
  • Social skills observation screening
  • Summary
  • Questions

Rationale for the Study of Social Skills in Young
  • Increase in the prevalence of children identified
    as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Many children identified with ASD at age 2 to 3
  • Experience difficulty in the areas of
  • Language
  • Behavior
  • Social interaction skills
  • Children with ASD often have difficulty socially
    interacting with their peers
  • Lack of social interaction skills and problem
    behavior often interfere with successful
    inclusion in early childhood programs
  • Placement in inclusive setting alone will not
    produce positive and lasting changes in social
    skills (Koegel et al., 2001 Strain Hoyson,

Social Skills Intervention Research
  • Target specific social behaviors such as
    initiation and response (Matson et al., 1996
    Rogers, 2000)
  • Child with ASD targeted interventions
  • Teach child imitative behaviors
  • Play initiation strategies
  • Use of photographic activity schedules
  • Majority conducted in inclusive settings
  • Outcomes
  • Effective way to increase social interactions
  • Use of imitation alone poor outcome (did not
    teach specific social skill)

Social Skills Intervention Research Continued
  • Peer targeted interventions
  • Awareness activities paired with extrinsic
    reinforcement for interacting with child with ASD
  • Focus on increasing peers initiations or
    responsiveness to child with ASD
  • Majority of research done in inclusive settings
  • Outcomes
  • More effect on the responsive behavior of
    children with ASD
  • Less of an impact to influence initiations of
    children with ASD

Social Skills Intervention Research Continued
  • Teacher Targeted Interventions
  • One study identified the teacher as intervention
    agent (Kohler et al., 2001)
  • Inclusive preschool settings evaluated
  • Taught teachers to use naturalistic teaching
    strategies to improve social interaction of 4
    preschoolers with ASD
  • Stimulate childs interest play with activity
  • Facilitate communication and social interaction
    with others
  • Outcomes
  • Significant improvements seen for 2/4 children
  • Teachers did not like the naturalistic strategies

Social Skills Intervention Research Continued
  • Parent targeted interventions
  • One study identified parent as intervention agent
  • (Kaiser et al., 2000)
  • Three components to intervention
  • Environmental arrangement of materials to promote
    child engagement
  • Responsive interaction techniques to build social
  • Procedures to prompt, model, consequate use of
    new language forms
  • Conducted in clinic setting for 6 parents,
    generalized to home
  • Outcomes
  • All 6 parents used strategies appropriately
  • 5/6 maintained and used 6 months later
  • All children maintained increases in social

Summary of Intervention Literature
  • Interventions that directly target child with ASD
    most effective
  • Increases social interaction skills, initiations
  • Generalization of skills to other people,
    settings, and activities
  • Facilitates language and social skills
  • Child with ASD must be taught direct and specific
    social skills interventions not just be
    physically included with typical peers
  • Majority of literature on social skills for
    children with ASD has emphasized interventions
    not necessarily tied to experimental assessment
  • Therefore, our understanding of why social skills
    difficulties occur has not been advanced

Assessment of Social Skills Deficits
  • Typical assessment examines pivotal or
    appropriate skill targets (Peck et al., 1997)
  • Very limited literature on systematic assessment
    of social skills deficits prior to implementation
    of an intervention
  • Need to examine events related to occurrence of
    both appropriate and inappropriate social skills
  • Use that information to match interventions to
    address individual needs based on findings of
    experimental analyses
  • Use of applied behavior analysis (ABA) literature
    for guidance

Assessment of Social Skills Continued
  • Very limited research on use of experimental
    analyses of social skills deficits
  • Peck colleagues conducted structural analysis
    (SA) to assess appropriate social skills
  • Effective intervention identified, implemented,
    and generalized
  • More research needed on use of experimental
    analysis to identify factors that serve to
    facilitate and/or maintain appropriate and
    inappropriate social skill behaviors for young
    children with ASD in natural settings

Research Project Purpose
  • To increase knowledge and understanding of the
    usefulness of experimental analysis techniques
    for evaluating social skills behaviors of young
    children with ASD in natural settings
  • To utilize descriptive and experimental
    evaluation information to develop interventions
    to decrease inappropriate and increase
    appropriate social skill behaviors
  • To facilitate the success of young children with
    ASD in general education classrooms

Project Specifics
  • Participants 18 children over a 3 year period
  • Project began January 2003
  • Current participants - 7
  • Ages 18 months to 5 years of age
  • Diagnoses Autism Spectrum
  • Setting Natural setting (home, childcare, school
  • Behaviors Social skills difficulties
    (withdrawal, inappropriate or limited play with
  • Assessment Intervention Multi-phase process to
    link assessment to intervention

  • Descriptive Assessments
  • Social Skills Interview Form with primary
  • Project DATA Social Skills Assessment (Schwartz,
  • http//
  • Snap Shot Assessment (adapted from Conroy
    Brown, 2001)
  • 6 observations conducted during opportunities for
    socially interact
  • Social skills observation screening (adapted from
    Brown Odom, Buysee, 2000)
  • 10-min observations of child with ASD in
    different social contexts (manipulative area,
    art, pretend play area)
  • Descriptive Observations of Contextual Factors
  • 10 hours of direct, sequential recording of
    behaviors and contextual factors in natural
  • Observation of the interaction of peer and target
    child behaviors in presence/absence of different
    contexts including activity type, play format,
    and level of adult engagement
  • Outcomes of social interactions

Methods (Continued)
  • Experimental Analyses
  • Functional analyses (Iwata et al., 1982/1994)
  • Conditions ignore, tangible, attention, escape ,
    free play
  • Structural analyses (Cooper et al., 1990 Peck et
    al., 1997)
  • Conditions amount of peer or adult
    attention,preference for social
    activity/materials, type of directions
  • Interventions
  • Replacement of inappropriate social behaviors
    with development of appropriate social behaviors
  • Utilization of contextual factors that reduce the
    likelihood of inappropriate social behaviors and
    increase likelihood of appropriate social

  • 5 years old
  • Diagnosis
  • Autism
  • Kindergarten Included 80 of the day
  • IQ 55 with Developmental Abilities Scale (DAS)
  • Average academics (below average math)
  • Communicates with simple sentences
  • Classroom aide part-time basis
  • Behaviors of concern
  • Social withdrawal
  • Very limited interactions with peers
  • Disruption (loud vocalizations)
  • Stereotypy (repetitive use of phrases)

Indirect Assessment Information
  • Strengths
  • Communication - speaks in 3-4 word sentences
  • Learns and follows established routines
  • Tolerates being in proximity to peers
  • No inappropriate externalizing behaviors (no more
  • Appears to enjoy praise from teacher and aide
  • Music activities identified by teacher and aide
    as possibilities for
  • increasing likelihood that Garrett will socially
    interact with peers
  • Observes play of others
  • Remains with group during activities
  • Needs
  • Does not initiate toward peers
  • Typically chooses solitary activities (books)
  • Few activities/materials appear to stimulate
    social interaction
  • Avoids peer initiations by turning or walking
  • Limited appropriate social behaviors

Summary of Indirect Information for Garrett
  • Appropriate social interaction skills limited
  • Often physically turns away in response to peers
  • Few if any activities known to increase
    likelihood that he will interact
  • Identified factors that decrease likelihood
  • Noise, too many people
  • Perception that Garrett uses appropriate social
    behaviors currently to seek information
  • Perception that inappropriate social behaviors
    are used to avoid others and decrease stimulation
    from environment

Snap Shot Assessment
  • Developed to allow practitioners to observe and
    gather information on childs social strengths
    and needs
  • Purpose
  • Examine variables that surround occurrence of
    social behaviors
  • Identify the outcomes of social behaviors when
    they do occur
  • Identify 3-5 activities when target child is most
    social or has most opportunities for social
    interaction with peers
  • Observe child for 6 observation intervals across
    the 3-5 activities

  • Identify when child with ASD and peers
  • Social initiation
  • Behavior directed toward a peer in an attempt to
    elicit a social response, peer attention, or
    access objects/activities
  • Respond to social initiation
  • Behavior that the child engages in to overtly
    acknowledge an initiation (e.g., a target child
    asks a peer to play and the peer joins him in
  • No response
  • Child ignores the initiator, and/or continues to
    engage in the same play behavior
  • Interaction
  • Sequence of 3 social behaviors between a target
    child and peer (initiation-response-interaction).
    The interaction begins with the third behavior in
    the sequence

Snap Shot Assessment Specifics
Snap Shot Definitions
  • Type and form of behavior
  • Describe behavior observed for child with ASD
    (target child)
  • Describe what behavior looked like (repeated
  • Describe situation in which behavior occurred
    (swinging outside)
  • If teacher prompted social behavior note this as
  • Context appropriateness of play
  • State what play activity was (blocks, swing)
  • State if target childs behavior was appropriate
    (both socially and developmentally)
  • Reciprocity of exchange
  • State whether target childs behavior was
    reciprocated (did peer respond? did exchange
    lead to interaction)
  • Perceived goal of behavior
  • Describe goal you perceive the target child
    wanted (e.g., escape social situation, obtain
    tangible item, obtain peer attention)
  • Actual outcome
  • State whether perceived goal/outcome was
    successful or unsuccessful
  • Describe what occurred (peer walked away,

Snap Shot Findings for Garrett
  • 5 observations (28 total)
  • 3 to 5 of those minutes (total of 12 minutes)
    each time did not include any social behavior
  • Initiations - Garrett initiated 4/28 times
  • 2 help/comfort (building, bumped child on swing)
  • 2 requests (access to swing, teacher-prompted)
  • Peers initiated to Garrett 4/28 times
  • Requests for Garrett to comply with specific
    request (3) or engage in play behavior
  • When Garrett did initiate peers responded only 1
  • When peers initiated to Garrett he never
  • Outcome - unsuccessful to obtain peer attention
  • Successful to obtain access to tangible (swing)

Snap Shot Examples for Garrett
  • Outdoor play
  • Garrett initiated by saying hey repeatedly to
    peer on swing peer did not respond Garrett was
    trying to get a turn on the swing teacher gave
    him her swing unsuccessful with peer, successful
    to get tangible item
  • Garrett initiated by saying Uh oh! repeatedly
    after peer was hit by swing he was on no peer
    response (walked away) appeared Garrett wanted
    peers attention unsuccessful
  • Sensory (Play-doh) activity
  • Garrett pointed to peer and made a comment
    (difficult to interpret what he said) after she
    made a noise peer did not respond unsuccessful
  • Block area and cognitive activity
  • Peer building with blocks and initiated by asking
    Garrett to move Garrett did not respond
    (continued reading chart on wall with aide) -
    same situation occurred 3 times, each time, no
    response from Garrett

Summary of Snap Shot for Garrett
  • Summary
  • When Garrett initiates peers do not respond
  • When peers initiate Garrett does not respond
  • Garretts initiations were perseverative and
    appear to perhaps occur when he desires a
    tangible item
  • Garrett has limited social interactions

Snap Shot Practice 1
Snap Shot Practice 2
Snap Shot Practice 3
Snap Shot Practice 4
Snap Shot Practice 5
Snap Shot Practice 6
Snap Shot Practice 7
Snap Shot Practice 8
Snap Shot Practice 9
Snap Shot Practice 10
Snap Shot Practice 11
Snap Shot Practice 12
Snap Shot Practice 13
Snap Shot Practice 14
Snap Shot Practice 15
Snap Shot Practice 16
Snap Shot Summary
  • Snap shot is a descriptive observation instrument
    that can be used to identify
  • Variables when social behaviors occur
  • Did target child initiate?
  • When peer initiates what is target childs
  • What is the context of social situation
  • Outcomes of social situations
  • What was the perceived goal of target childs
    behavior and was that achieved
  • Utilize this information when developing
    experimental analyses

Social Skills Observation Screening
  • Developed to allow practitioners to observe and
    gather information on childs social strengths
    and needs in a more structured way than snap shot
  • Purpose
  • Measure rate/frequency of social behaviors
  • Measure topography of social behaviors

Social Skills Observation Screening Continued
  • Identify 2-3 times/activities when there will be
    a high likelihood that the target child will be
    interacting with peers
  • Observe each time/activity period at least 23
  • Each observation should be 10 minutes long using
    partial interval recording (observe 10 seconds,
    record for 5 seconds)
  • Record anecdotal information regarding social
    interaction in comments section (e.g., favorite
    peers, materials, activities, physiological
    setting events)
  • Summarize data by graphing the of intervals the
    participant engaged in social behavior across
    activities and within each activity

Screening Definitions
  • I Target child initiation
  • R Target child response
  • SI Target child initiated social interaction
  • PI Peer social initiation
  • PR Peer social response
  • SIP Peer initiated social interaction
  • Circle code if target child is appropriate
  • Underline code if target child is inappropriate
  • Slash code if teacher prompted
  • X over code if continued interaction from
    previous interval

Screening Example
Screening Practice 1
Screening Practice 2
Screening Practice 3
Screening Practice 4
Screening Practice 5
Screening Practice 6
Screening Practice 7
Screening Practice 8
Social Skills Observation Screening Summary
  • Screening is a descriptive observation instrument
    that can be used to identify
  • Frequency or rate at which social behaviors occur
    over a 10 minute time period
  • Summarize initiations, responses, interactions
  • Identify if there are activities that increase or
    decrease likelihood of social behaviors
  • Utilize this information when developing
    experimental analyses

Next Steps
  • 10 hours of direct observation across a set of 9
    specific activity types
  • Determine target child and peer social behaviors
    in relation to activity types, and level of adult
  • Consider all information in the development of
    experimental analyses
  • Match outcomes of experimental analyses to select
    target behaviors and intervention strategy for
  • Train all care providers in use of treatment
  • Follow-up for 1-2 years

Findings from DO for Garrett
  • Kindergarten with 20 students, 1 aide
  • Data collected across a 5 week period
  • Overall rate of Garretts initiations .01/min
  • Equals about 1 initiation every 2 hours
  • Most often occurred during art, computer, games
    with rules
  • Overall rate of Garretts responses .075/min
  • Equals about 4.5 times per hour
  • Most often occurred during computer and games
    with rules
  • More likely to respond (and last longer) if child
    initiated play and adult was disengaged from
  • Perceived outcome of social behaviors was to
    obtain tangible/peer attention
  • When not engaging in social behavior 8 of time
    engaged in stereotypy, 92 engaged in solitary

  • Social skills literature focused on specific
    intervention strategies not on methods to
    systematically assess the reasons or functions of
    those skill difficulties
  • Need to develop instruments that will provide
    information for experimental analyses of social
    skills behaviors
  • Snap shot and screening provide researcher or
    practitioner low tech method to obtain
    information about childs social behaviors (or
    lack of behaviors)
  • This information can be used to develop the
    experimental conditions of FA and SA
  • All of this information will lead to the
    development of more effective and efficient
    interventions for young children with ASD to
    increase opportunities for meaningful inclusion