An evaluation of the model Me Kids® curriculum for children and adolescents with high functioning autism spectrum disorder
McCoy, Ann Mary
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This thesis evaluates the efficacy of the Model Me Kids® curriculum for increasing social skills in children and adolescents with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD). The evaluation was achieved by first conducting a pilot study using a single-subject research design (SSRD). The findings of the pilot study were then used to inform methodological features of two proceeding randomised controlled trials (i.e., RCTs; Chapters 4 and 5). Prior to the empirical examinations, however, a review of the evidence-base and efficacy of three social skills interventions, two of which are employed in Model Me Kids® curriculum (i.e., VM and role play), was conducted. Chapter 2 conducted a systematic review of VM, role play, and computer-based instruction (CBI) for teaching social skills to children and adolescents with HFASD. Positive findings were indicated across all three interventions in the measurement of treatment efficacy; conversely, only one of the three interventions evaluated (i.e., CBI) was found to have the evidence necessary to be classified as “established” according to Reichow’s (2011) criteria for determining evidence-based practices (EBP). Further analysis of the quality indicators, however, showed that research strength ratings were roughly comparable across studies evaluating VM, role play, and CBI interventions. Such analysis cautions interpretation of the classification of EBP in Chapter 2 and highlights the need for continued research, with an emphasis on improved methodological rigor, across all three interventions evaluated. An SSRD was employed in Chapter 3 to conduct a pilot evaluation of the Model Me Kids® curriculum for five child and young adolescent participants with HFASD. A multiple baseline design across behaviours was used to investigate the outcomes associated with the curriculum. For child and young adolescent participants, three social skills were selected from the modules “Time for a Playdate” and “Conversation Cues”, respectively. Following instruction on the curriculum, increases in knowledge and performance of the target social skills were observed across all participants; however, instruction on the curriculum did not affect performance across persons and settings (i.e., generalisation). Chapters 4 and 5 extended upon Chapter 3 by conducting an evaluation of the Model Me Kids® curriculum using RCTs. In Chapter 4, three modules of the curriculum were implemented with an EXP Group (EXP) of 14 child participants, while a WLC Group (WLC) of 12 participants received treatment as usual. Using within-group analyses, significant increases in performance of the social skills were observed for participants of the EXP group. Between-groups analyses, however, did not indicate significant differences at post-testing on standardised measures of social skills. A similar methodology was implemented for participants of Chapter 5, with the exception that children and adolescents, aged 9 to 17 years, participated in the study. In Chapter 5, the Model Me Kids® curriculum was implemented with an EXP group of 18 participants, while a WLC group of 16 participants received treatment as usual. Statistically significant differences between groups were found on standardised measures of mannerisms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at post-testing. Additionally, significant decreases in impairments, from pre- to post-test, were detected on measures of social cognition and social communication for participants of the EXP group only. Similar to the findings reported in Chapter 4, for participants of the EXP group, performance of the social skills were positively affected by instruction on the curriculum in the small group context.
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