A review of recommended social competency programs for students with autism spectrum disorders

by Stichter, J.P., Randolph, J., Gage, N., & Schmidt, C.

Social competency deficits are a core feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).  During the past several decades, a number of social skill interventions for students with ASD have emerged.  However, over the past five years, three converging issues have brought increased attention to the need for social competence programming: (1) increased ASD incidence rates, (2) inclusion and integration trends, and (3) recent No Child Left Behind Act requirements regarding use of evidence-based practices.  This article discusses current best practices in enhancing the social competence of learners with ASD.  To this end: a review of the literature was conducted to (1) define key behaviors related to social competence targeted by common interventions and (2) identify the core components and targets that are essential for effective social competence interventions. Searches done by hand and electronically were conducted to identify empirical reviews or summaries of effective social competence interventions from preschool to early adulthood. Eight reviews that encompass typically developing as well as those that specifically target ASD were chosen. Results of the review identified eight primary behavior categories most frequently targeted by social interventions across preschool, elementary, and secondary age groups.  Additional analysis identified 11 core components consistently identified in reviews.  Explanation of categories as well as implications for future research and practice are explored.