PEERS Virtual Coach Study: Social Skills Training for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Tarjan Center UCEDD)

July 18, 2013

In a new study conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Director of the UCLA PEERS® Clinic, researchers are investigating the effectiveness of a virtual social coaching mobile application in conjunction with an evidence-based social skills intervention for adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), known as PEERS®. During the PEERS® program, parents and teens meet weekly in separate but co-occurring groups for 90-minutes in the evening over a 14-week period. Parents are taught how to help their teens make and keep friends by acting as social coaches outside of the group. Teens are presented with social skills lessons and then practice the skills they just learned during socialization activities. Homework assignments are also given each week to make sure teens are practicing the skills they are learning.

The study aims to test the efficacy of adding a mobile application used as a supplementary social coaching tool in combination with the 14-week PEERS® intervention. The PEERS® Virtual Social Coach mobile application consists of a menu of lesson plans based on the PEERS® curriculum with embedded video demonstrations of what the skills should or should not look like, providing step-by-step instruction and video modeling of the targeted social skills. As part of the study, teen participants will receive an iPod iTouch device with the PEERS® Virtual Social Coach application to keep even when the study is over.

For more information on the PEERS® Virtual Social Coach study, please visit www.semel.ucla.edu/peers, and/or contact the research team at (310) 267-3377 or peersclinic@ucla.edu