It is important that teens are given the opportunity to develop social etiquette skills in a structured way so they can more confidently apply social skills that don't come naturally. Although it is clear that teaching social skills to adolescents is important, most of the research on adolescents with ASD has focused on early intervention (children).  The lack of evidence based social skills programs to improve social competence and promote friendship formation in adolescence is what inspired the development of the PEERS® program. 

In 2009, the first randomised control trial of PEERS® was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Laugeson, Frankel, Mogil, & Dillon, 2009). The following results were found:


  • The first study compared teens with ASD receiving PEERS® and a delayed treatment control group. Results indicated that, in comparison to the control group, those that received treatment showed improvement in their knowledge of social skills, increased frequency of hosted get togethers, and improved overall social skills as reported by parents. In a second follow up study, previous findings were repeated for a group of 28 teens with ASD. The study also showed a decrease in autism symptoms related to social responsivity.

  • The second study compared teens receiving PEERS® intervention to those waiting for treatment. Results revealed a significant increase in parent-reported social skills and social responsivity, increased frequency of hosted get togethers, and improvement in knowledge of social etiquette. In a 3 month follow up, results indicated all gains were maintained for all measures except teen reports of hosted get togethers. Researchers suspect this may be that get togethers were more successful in the presence of parents. 

In 2012, a study examined the efficacy of the PEERS® program in high functioning adolescents. Results indicated that teens involved in PEERS® significantly improved their social skills knowledge, social responsiveness, and overall social skills in the areas of social communication, social cognition, social awareness, social motivation, assertion, cooperation, and responsibility, while decreasing autistic mannerisms and increasing the frequency of peer interactions (Laugeson, Frankel, Gantman & Dillon, 2012).​ Independent teacher ratings revealed significant improvement in social skills and assertion from pre-test to follow-up assessment and these gains were maintained at a 14-week follow-up assessment (Laugeson et al., 2012).

The PEERS® programme has been shown to be effective through multiple randomised controlled trials and maintenance of gains 1-5 years after treatment has been evidenced. Overall, the PEERS® programme facilitates developmental, learning and social competencies for individuals with social challenges which may contribute to self-efficacy and well-being.

The results outline above indicate that the PEERS® program has had positive implications for teens with ASD, as well as for individuals that experience social emotional challenges without a formal diagnosis. Overall, recent research, including randomised controlled trials has shown the following improvements in adolescents who completed the programme; -

  • Improved social skills and social reciprocity

  • Improved social skills knowledge and social understanding

  • Improved friendship quality

  • Greater number of social gatherings (hosted by the teen in their home)

  • Improved social engagement and social responsiveness

  • Initiation of new friendships

  • Improved self-regulation

  • Teens with ASD and ADHD appear to benefit similarly following intervention

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Ramsgate, South Sydney, Psychologist, SAS, Secret Agent Society, PEERS, Autism Spectrum Disorders, social skills, group programs, children, teenagers, adolescents, SAS trained, PEERS trained, emotions, friendships, ASD, ASHD, anxiety


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