March 31, 2017

Education prof to share research at forefront of autism spectrum disorder

April 11 talk by Adam McCrimmon will detail results of four-year study on social skills program for individuals with ASD

Often, research that can have a positive impact on the community never reaches its intended audience. Werklund School of Education associate professor  Adam McCrimmon  hopes to change this by sharing his research into a program that helps individuals on the autism spectrum develop social and relationship skills.

For nearly four years, McCrimmon’s Autism Spectrum Education, Research, and Training (ASERT) lab has been offering the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) to teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while researching its effectiveness.

Created at the University of California, Los Angeles, PEERS is a 14-week program that assists individuals with ASD to develop social skills. Topics covered include how to make and keep friends, manage dating and intimate relationships, and deal with peer conflict.

“PEERS is the singularly most researched social intervention for teens on the spectrum and has the most evidence in support of its effectiveness,” says McCrimmon, who is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI)

So, while there is little doubt about the program’s efficacy, McCrimmon believes PEERS is capable of much more.

“Previous research has restricted its scope of outcomes to things like enhancement of social skills, knowledge of social skills, etc.  Although these things are important, it is also interesting to explore other potential areas of improvement as a result of completing the program. That is what my team and I have been doing for the past several years.”

Some of areas of improvement McCrimmon will discuss during a lecture the evening of Tuesday, April 11 include emotional intelligence and the desire expressed by teens who completed the program to engage in social interaction with others.

“People who attend the talk will come away with a better appreciation for the program, how it works, and the positive impacts that it can have for teens with ASD as well as opportunities for future advancement,” says McCrimmon. “The information shared will be of benefit to past attendees of the program, people who are interested in taking it or having their child take it and educators or other professionals from the community who work with teens with ASD.”

McCrimmon began offering the intervention in collaboration with The Ability Hub approximately four years ago and has since brought the program to the University of Calgary campus.

“There was a strong need by the community for such an intervention and the collaboration enabled the intervention and research components.  We plan to continue running the program, in conjunction with the associated research project, for as long as there is a need in the community.”

The April 11 event is the first of three sessions relating to McCrimmon’s ASD research.  The lectures are free and registration is now open