Integrating Social Skills Training in a Therapeutic Recreation Program for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Research regarding social skills training techniques for youth with autism spectrum disorders does not generally include implementation in anywhere but clinical, highly structured settings. However, leisure and recreation settings are conducive to promoting social skills improvement due to assets such as typical peer groups, engaging play activities, and significant opportunities for incidental learning. This program was designed for this particular population and integrated in to the daily schedule of a six-week long therapeutic recreation summer day camp for adolescents with disabilities ages 13-18. A standardized assessment, the Home and Community Social Behavior Scales (HCSBS) evaluates various areas of social ability and was utilized to measure changes specifically in peer interaction skills of participants with autism. Results discovered that this design can complement the aims of the camp and contribute to social enrichment and inclusion; every subject showed positive gains in the peer relations subscale at a much higher rate than in any other area of social ability. Multiple recognizable patterns emerged that can be evaluated in future studies, including greater average improvements for females, those ages 16-18 and those with an Asperger's diagnosis. Replication of this program could quantify and confirm the effectiveness of social skills training within recreation, which would require controlling for the additional treatment of a therapeutic summer camp. However, this observational case study demonstrates a promising future regarding improving the efficiency and value of therapeutic recreation services for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.