Randomized comparative trial of a social cognitive skills group for children with autism spectrum disorder. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the efficacy of a targeted social skills training group in school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The intervention, Seaver-NETT (Nonverbal communication, Emotion recognition, and Theory of mind Training), is a 12-session cognitive-behavioral intervention (CBI) for verbal, school-aged children targeting ASD-specific social behavioral impairments. METHOD: Sixty-nine children with ASD, 8 to 11 years of age, with verbal IQs greater than 70, participated in a randomized comparative trial to examine the efficacy of NETT relative to a facilitated play group. Treatment outcomes included caregiver reports of social behavior and neuropsychological assessments of social cognition conducted by blinded raters. Outcomes were collected at baseline, endpoint, and 3 months posttreatment. RESULTS: Significant improvements were found on social behavior outcomes such as nonverbal communication, empathic responding, and social relations in the NETT condition relative to the active control at endpoint. Verbal IQ moderated the interaction effect on social behavior, with higher verbal IQ associated with improvements in the CBI condition. No significant improvements were found on social cognitive outcomes. No significant group differences were found at 3-month follow-up conducted with approximately half the sample (n = 34). CONCLUSION: These data indicate that targeted CBI social skills groups such as NETT improve social communication deficits in verbal, school-aged children with ASD. The moderating effects of high verbal IQ suggest a need to consider participant and treatment characteristics associated with outcomes in future studies. Clinical trial registration information-Neural and Behavioral Outcomes of Social Skills Groups in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder; https://clinicaltrials.gov; NCT01190917.

publication date

  • March 2015