AUTISM

AUTISM

August 2, 2012

UCSB autism researchers find that focusing on strengths improves social skills of adolescents

IMAGE: Robert and Lynn Koegel.
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(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– The junior high and high school years are emotionally challenging even under the best of circumstances, but for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), that time can be particularly painful. Lacking the social skills that enable them to interact successfully with their peers, these students are often ostracized and even bullied by their classmates.

However, a new study conducted by researchers at the Koegel Autism Center at UC Santa Barbara has found that by playing on their strengths –– high intelligence and very specific interests –– these adolescents are as capable as anyone else of forging strong friendships. In addition, the research findings demonstrate that the area of the brain that controls such social behavior is not as damaged in adolescents with ASD as was previously believed. The findings appear in a recent issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.

"The problem is that their restricted interests can dominate their lives and further push away people they'd like to get to know," said Robert Koegel, director of the Koegel Autism Center and the study's lead author. He is also a professor of counseling, clinical, and school psychology and of education in UCSB's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. "They're so highly focused on that interest, people think they're weird. But by involving themselves in an activity around the interest, they not only make friends but also become valued members of the group. Their specialized skill becomes a strength." READ MORE >>



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