Comparing a Practice-Based Model with a Research-Based Model of social skills interventions for children with autism in schools

Jill Locke, Erin Rotheram-Fuller, Colleen Harker, Connie Kasari, David S. Mandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Background: Social impairment is the most challenging core deficit for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several evidence-based interventions address social impairment in children with ASD; however, adoption, use, and implementation of these interventions in schools is challenging. Method: Ninety-two children with ASD who received one of three intervention models: a) School personnel adapted and implemented evidence-based social skills intervention (Practice-Based Model; n = 14); b) University researcher developed and implemented evidence-based social skills intervention (Research-Based Model; n = 45); or c) standard educational practices model (Inclusion Only Model; n = 33) participated. The average age was 8.4 (SD = 1.6) years; majority was male (88%) and white (52.2%). Typically developing classmates completed sociometric ratings to determine children's social network inclusion, and independent raters observed children on the playground using a time-interval behavior coding system to record solitary engagement and frequency of initiations. Results: Separate linear regression models were conducted. Children in the Research-Based Model had significantly higher social network inclusion than children in the other two settings (p =.05). Children in the Practice-Based Model had significantly lower solitary engagement (p =.04) and more initiations on the playground than children in the University Developed Model (p =.04). Conclusions: The results suggest that researchers: 1) may learn from public school stakeholders who have lived experiences to better understand the context in which implementation occurs; and 2) should partner with schools to learn about their processes of adaptation and adoption in order to facilitate successful implementation of evidence-based practices for children with ASD. Interventions designed with implementation in mind may be more feasible and increase the chances of use in schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 2019



  • Autism
  • Implementation
  • Practice-based evidence
  • Social skills interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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