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School-Age and Adolescent Social Skills Group: PEERS Intervention (ages 12-16)



The School-Age and Adolescent Social Skills Group at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) is a recurring intervention program for individuals, ages 12 to 16.  This social skills training group covers curriculum from the evidence-based and manualized Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS)® intervention and consists of ten 90-minute long sessions held weekly at the CIDD.  Groups typically run once in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

The PEERS® intervention provides direct instruction, modeling, social coaching, and socialization assignments to practice skills that will help participants learn to make and keep friends.  Topics covered in the group include strategies for having successful conversations, using electronic communication, choosing appropriate friends, hosting get-togethers, handing conflict, and more.  The intervention also includes concurrent caregiver training sessions focused on teaching parents social coaching strategies.

This group intervention is designed for school-age adolescents previously diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disability (such as autism spectrum disorder) who are interested in improving social skills and developing peer relationships.  Instructional approaches are best suited for individuals who have sufficient receptive and expressive verbal skills.  Group sessions are co-led by Dr. Laura Hiruma (a PEERS Certified Provider) and CIDD trainees under the supervision of Dr. Gabriel Dichter.  Optional participation in a research study is available to eligible participants.

Contact Dr. Hiruma at 919-843-6768 or laura.hiruma@cidd.unc.edu for more information about scheduling and registration.

Optional Research Component:

We will also have an optional research component available for those enrolled in this social skills group that involves three additional visits to the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. The first visit will last about 3 hours and will take place within two weeks before the first social skills group session, the second visit will last about 2 hours and will take place within two weeks after the last social skills group session, and the final visit will last about 2 hours and will take place approximately 2 months after the last social skills group session. These research visits will involve a diagnostic interview, questionnaires, neuropsychological testing, and a brief eye tracking session. This first visit participants will be compensated $30, and the next two visits participants will be compensated $20 each visit.

Additionally, participants will be asked to complete 8 brief mood checks via a smartphone or computer just following each visit. Participants will also receive $4 for each time he/she completes the mood check (12 times total, across 3 days, per visit). Therefore, participants can earn up to an additional $144 for the mood check across the three time points.

If all portions of testing are completed, participants will earn $214. This compensation will be in the form of a gift card.

PEERS® is an evidence-based intervention developed by Elizabeth Laugeson, Psy.D., and Fred Frankel, Ph.D., at UCLA. The School-Age and Adolescent Group at the CIDD covers the PEERS® manualized curriculum.