Monday, May 30, 2011

“Encouraging Friendship Skills”

 “Encouraging Friendship Skills” Program for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome and their parents”

The Aims of the Study

Parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including Asperger’s syndrome (AS), often report that they experience significant stress in their daily lives. In addition, many children with AS have difficulty with friendship skills in particular affectionate communication, which can lead to a number of difficulties in everyday life.

This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a newly developed stress management approach that has been adapted for parents of children with AS and a child program developed by Professor Tony Attwood to encourage friendship skills in children with AS.

Who can participate?
  • Children aged 7 to 12 years old with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism who have difficulties with friendship skills.
  • Parent/s of the child with AS who is/are experiencing parenting stress or distress.

The Study

First phase: both parent/s and child will be required to come to the University of Queensland, St Lucia Psychology Clinic for an assessment session. At this assessment session, the parent/s will be asked to complete a battery of questionnaires and answer questions about their child’s diagnosis, friendship difficulties and own stress levels. The child will complete a brief measure of intelligence and answer questions about a hypothetical situation designed to assess their friendship skills. This assessment session will take approximately 1.5 hours. Parents will be asked to complete the same battery of questionnaires at three different time points: at the assessment session, immediately following the program and 3 months following the program. These questionnaires take approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete. The questionnaires are about parenting, stress, coping and your child’s affection and friendship skills.
Second phase: involves completing the 7 week intervention program. The program will be conducted at the UQ Psychology Clinic, St Lucia campus, for two hours each week on consecutive Saturday mornings. There are two groups planned: one to start the first weekend of School Term 3 and the second on to start the first weekend of School Term 4. To meet research requirements, parent/s and their child will be randomly allocated to one of two groups.

The first two weeks are for the parents only. These two weeks will cover the stress management techniques. During these two weeks, parents will work in large groups to learn stress management techniques specifically designed for parents of a child with AS.

The last five weeks are for both the parent/s and their child. These five weeks will cover the ‘Encouraging Friendship Skills’ program developed by Professor Tony Attwood. These sessions will focus on teaching the children friendship skills and the importance of affectionate communication for making and keeping friends. The children will be in groups of three with two therapists. The parents will cover the child content in a large group so they are able to support and help their children learn the skills and complete homework tasks.
The program will be conducted by Postgraduate Provisional Clinical Psychologists and supervised by Clinical Psychologist, Dr Kate Sofronoff. Please also note to participate in the program, $50 will be charged. This cost is to cover the program resources and facilities provided.

Joining the Study

If you would like to participate in this project or you would like more information, please contact a member of the research team:
Lize Andrews
Ph: 0432 438 600
Celia Bird
Ph: 0430 179 174

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