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Comorbid ADHD and Anxiety Affect Social Skills Group Intervention Treatment Efficacy in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Antshel, Kevin M. PhD; Polacek, Carol PhD, NP; McMahon, Michele CSW; Dygert, Karen NP; Spenceley, Laura MA; Dygert, Lindsay BS; Miller, Laura BA; Faisal, Fatima

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: July-August 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 6 - p 439-446
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e318222355d
Original Article

Objective: To assess the influence of psychiatric comorbidity on social skill treatment outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Methods: A community sample of 83 children (74 males, 9 females) with an ASD (mean age = 9.5 yr; SD = 1.2) and common comorbid disorders participated in 10-week social skills training groups. The first 5 weeks of the group focused on conversation skills and the second 5 weeks focused on social problem solving skills. A concurrent parent group was also included in the treatment. Social skills were assessed using the Social Skills Rating System. Ratings were completed by parents at pre- and posttreatment time periods.

Results: Children with ASD and children with an ASD and comorbid anxiety disorder improved in their parent reported social skills. Children with ASD and comorbid attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder failed to improve.

Conclusion: Psychiatric comorbidity affects social skill treatment gains in the ASD population.

From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, SUNY—Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY.

Received March 2010; accepted April 2011.

Address for reprints: Kevin M. Antshel, PhD, 750 East Adams Street, Syracuse, NY 13210; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.