Group Versus Individual Intervention: A Best Practice Analysis for Social Skill Development in Children Aged Four to Seven with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Mehlenbacher, Hannah Elizabeth
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This thesis is a best practice analysis to determine the play therapy modality that provides the most desirable increase in social skills for children aged four to seven diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder was first observed in the 1960's (Silberman, 2015) and since has greatly increased in prevalence, affecting close to one percent of the population (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which impacts both caregivers and professionals in the neurodevelopmental field. Through a social justice and human rights standpoint this thesis was conducted through the lens of neurodiversity (Silberman, 2015) and the importance of opportunities for those with disabilities in areas of central importance such as health and education (Nussbaum, 2007). Previous literature on the topic of social skill intervention for those with autism has shown the dominance of applied behavioural analysis (ABA) in research and practice (Leaf et al., 2015). Previous analyses of best practice have been inconclusive and there have been minimal clinical trials on the effects of play therapy specifically. Because of the gaps in literature, a best practice analysis was conducted through the human judgement approach (Bretschneider et al., 2005). Of the empirical studies that were analyzed a common dependent variable of joint attention and eye contact emerged allowing comparability of the studies. It was concluded that individual therapy may facilitate more non-verbal communication with adults and group therapy may facilitate more non-verbal communication with peers. This helps to lay a foundation of understanding moving forward with interventions for this population both for parents and professionals. Further clinical studies including more analyses of best practice and controlled clinical trials are suggested.
autism spectrum disorder, social skills, development, motivation, play therapy, neurodiversity, theory of mind, applied behavioral analysis, capabilities , autism spectrum disorder , play therapy , applied behavioral analysis , social skills , theory of mind , neurodiversity , capabilities of autistic children
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