Background: Individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience impairing challenges in social communication and interaction across multiple contexts. While social skills group training (SSGT) has shown moderate effects on various sociability outcomes in ASD, there is a need for (1) replication of effects in additional clinical and cultural contexts, (2) designs that employ active control groups, (3) calculation of health economic benefits, (4) identification of the optimal training duration, and (5) measurement of individual goals and quality of life outcomes.
Method/design: With the aim of investigating the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a SSGT, KONTAKT©, a two-armed randomized control trial with adolescents aged 12-17 years (N = 90) with ASD and an intelligence quotient (IQ) of over 70 will be undertaken. Following stratification for centre and gender, participants will be randomly assigned to either KONTAKT© or to an active control group, a group-based cooking programme. Participants will attend both programmes in groups of 6-8 adolescents, over 16 one-and-a-half-hour sessions. The primary outcome examined is adolescent self-rated achievement of personally meaningful social goals as assessed via the Goal Attainment Scaling during an interview with a blinded clinician. Secondary outcomes include adolescent self-reported interpersonal efficacy, quality of life, social anxiety, loneliness, face emotion recognition performance and associated gaze behaviour, and parent proxy reports of autistic traits, quality of life, social functioning, and emotion recognition and expression. Cost-effectiveness will be investigated in relation to direct and indirect societal and healthcare costs.
Discussion: The primary outcomes of this study will be evidenced in the anticipated achievement of adolescents' personally meaningful social goals following participation in KONTAKT© as compared to the active control group. This design will enable rigorous evaluation of the efficacy of KONTAKT©, exercising control over the possibly confounding effect of exposure to a social context of peers with a diagnosis of ASD.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR). ACTRN12617001117303. Registered on 31 July 2017. anzctr.org.au ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03294668. Registered on 22 September 2017. https://clinicaltrials.gov.
Keywords: Adolescents; Autism spectrum disorder; KONTAKT; Social skills; Training.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors have no competing of interests. Sven Bölte receives royalties from Hogrefe publishers for the German and Swedish KONTAKT© manuals and the Swedish KONTAKT© Activity books. This research is conducted independent from the service provider with no competing interest.
Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled TrialN Choque Olsson et al. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 56 (7), 585-592. PMID 28647010.SSGT for children and adolescents with ASD in regular mental health services is feasible and safe. However, the modest and inconsistent effects underscore the importance …
Long-term Social Skills Group Training for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled TrialU Jonsson et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 28 (2), 189-201. PMID 29748736. - Randomized Controlled TrialSocial skills group training (SSGT) is widely used for intellectually able children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous studies indicate small t …
A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Korean Version of the PEERS(®) Parent-Assisted Social Skills Training Program for Teens With ASDHJ Yoo et al. Autism Res 7 (1), 145-61. PMID 24408892. - Randomized Controlled TrialImpaired social functioning is a hallmark feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often requiring treatment throughout the life span. PEERS(®) (Program for the Educati …
Methylphenidate for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum DisorderN Sturman et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 11 (11), CD011144. PMID 29159857. - ReviewWe found that short-term use of methylphenidate might improve symptoms of hyperactivity and possibly inattention in children with ASD who are tolerant of the medication, …
Cochrane Review: Social Skills Groups for People Aged 6 to 21 With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)B Reichow et al. Evid Based Child Health 8 (2), 266-315. PMID 23877884. - ReviewThere is some evidence that social skills groups can improve social competence for some children and adolescents with ASD. More research is needed to draw more robust con …
- Association AP . Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. 5. Arlington: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
- Bölte S, De Schipper E, Robison J, Wong V, Selb M, Singhal N, et al. Classification of functioning and impairment: the development of ICF core sets for autism spectrum disorder. 2014. - PubMed
- Autism in Australia . 2015: Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2017.
- Taylor JL, Dove D, Veenstra-Vanderweele J, Sathe NL, ML MP, Jerome R, et al. Interventions for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. Rockville: Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2012.
- Mesch G. In: Wired youth : the social world of adolescence in the information age. 1. Talmud I, editor. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis; 2010.