Background: The study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of a new multi-component social skills intervention for children with Asperger syndrome (AS): The Junior Detective Training Program. This 7-week program included a computer game, small group sessions, parent training sessions and teacher handouts.
Method: Forty-nine children with AS were recruited to participate and randomly assigned to intervention (n = 26) or wait-list control (n = 23) conditions.
Results: Relative to children in the wait-list group, program participants showed greater improvements in social skills over the course of the intervention, as indicated by parent-report measures. Teacher-report data also confirmed that children receiving the intervention made significant improvements in social functioning from pre- to post-treatment. Treatment group participants were better able to suggest appropriate emotion-management strategies for story characters at post-intervention than at pre-intervention, whereas control participants were not. However, there was no difference in the improvements made by children in the intervention and control conditions on facial expression and body-posture recognition measures. Follow-up data suggested that treatment gains were maintained by children at 5-months post-intervention.
Conclusions: The Junior Detective Training Program appeared to be effective in enhancing the social skills and emotional understanding of children with AS. Limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.