Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Diane Smallwood, PsyD

Second Advisor

Lisa Hain, PsyD

Third Advisor

Dr Monica McHale-Small

Fourth Advisor

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology


Children on the autistic spectrum display significant social deficits that negatively impact daily functioning and may lead to serious mental health problems. Research on the effectiveness of school based social skills programs and students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), specifically children identified with Asperger Disorder (AS) and high functioning Autism (HFA), has yielded limited positive outcomes. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a school based social skills program, the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS), over a 7 month period with six 8th grade middle school students who had been identified with autism or a social disability. Outcome data and program evaluation data were used to identify program modifications and implementation factors needed to adapt this program to meet the unique needs of these adolescents and promote skill generalization. The Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS) was administered to parents, students, and teachers before and near the end of the intervention. Parent and teacher-completed Social Responsiveness Scales (SRS) were obtained pre- and near the end of the intervention. Program evaluation interviews with teachers, students and parents were conducted during the intervention. Data from these interviews were used to make modifications to the SSIS for the second half of the intervention to facilitate more student involvement and generalization of skills. Program evaluation surveys were completed by parents, teachers, administrators included quantitative and qualitative information were used to provide a better understanding of the meaning of the intervention for each student. Every student demonstrated a positive outcome based on more than one data source. Program evaluation data were used to recommend the SSIS for other middle schools in the district. More studies are needed that incorporate student input and progress monitoring results for adolescents with social disabilities.

Included in

Psychology Commons