Research on Technology in Social Skills Training

Here is a brief summary of the literature review findings, which will inform researchers and practitioners alike in their future endeavors into the essential task of improving the social skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Applications of technology to teach social skills to children with autism
Florence D. DiGennaro Reed *, Sarah R. Hyman, Jason M. Hirst in
Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 5 (2011) 1003–1010

This study has analyzed articles relying on technology to teach social skills to children with autism as well as the topographies addressed in those studies.

One-third (n = 10; 34.5%) implemented an intervention to improve multiple  social skills.

Approximately half (51.7%; n = 15) focused on teaching children with autism to initiate conversation, 27.6% (n = 8) addressed play skills, 20.7% (n = 6) instructed children on social conventions during conversation, and 10.3% (n = 3) taught children how to respond to others’ initiations

Very few studies addressed nonverbal social behavior (n = 2), social problem-solving (n = 2), or emotion identification, regulation, and reciprocity (n = 2). 

No studies addressed friendship or peer relationships.

Video or DVD technology was the most common (n = 17; 58.6%) and addressed the most topographies; Audio scripts addressed initiating conversation, nonverbal social behavior, and others; Computer programs were used with play skills and social-problem solving; Tactile prompts were used with multiple social skills.

Studies defined and included direct observation of the target social skills; however the authors note the lack of use of standardized scales, which “has been suggested as a best practice for early screening, determining specific areas of deficits to design individual-specific interventions, and to standardize measures of progress (Merrell, 2001). Of particular note, assessment of social skills deficits allows the researcher to link assessment to treatment by matching the intervention strategy adopted to the particular deficit identified (Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001). ”   
They suggest:  School Social Behavior Scales (SSBS; Merrell, 1993), Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliott, 1990), and the Walker–McConnell Scales of Social Competence and School Adjustment (SSCSA; e.g., Walker & McConnell, 1995).