Group-based social skills interventions (GSSIs) are widely used for treating social competence among youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but their efficacy is unclear. Previous meta-analysis of the literature on well-designed trials of GSSIs is limited in size and scope, collapsing across highly heterogeneous sources (parents; youths; teachers; observers; behavioral tasks). The current meta-analysis of randomized control trials (RCTs) was conducted to ascertain overall effectiveness of GSSIs and differences by reporting sources. Nineteen RCTs met inclusion criteria. Results show that overall positive aggregate effects were medium (g = 0.51, p < 0.001). Effects were large for self-report (g = 0.92, p < 0.001), medium for task-based measures (g = 0.58, p < 0.001), small for parent- and observer-report (g = 0.47 and 0.40, respectively, p < 0.001), and nonsignificant for teacher-report (p = 0.11). Moderation analyses of self-report revealed the effect was wholly attributable to youth reporting that they learned about skilled social behaviors (social knowledge; g = 1.15, p < 0.01), but not that they enacted them (social performance; g = 0.28, p = 0.31). Social skills interventions presently appear modestly effective for youth with ASD, but may not generalize to school settings or self-reported social behavior.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Social skills