Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Mark Weist


Asperger’s syndrome (AS) has recently become controversial as a unique pervasive developmental disorder. Although it is apparently different than low-functioning autism, it has been deemed too similar to high-functioning autism (HFA) to be considered a distinct diagnosis in the DSM-5 classification system. However, despite the removal of AS from the DSM-5, research shows that both AS and HFA are significantly different than autism with cognitive impairment (intelligence quotient <= 70), and therefore have different treatment needs. These needs primarily include specialized social skills training. Youth with AS/HFA who obtain sufficient social skills often report greater levels of quality of life and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Their parents also report less parental stress. Although a growing number of evidence-based social skill interventions exist, few use an experimental design and incorporate special interest areas (i.e., the pervasive interests of children with AS), generalization techniques (e.g., different settings, parent inclusion) or computer mediation, which research suggests is needed. Using an experimental design, this study investigated the incremental benefits of parent-guided social skills software (i.e., Social Express) in improving social, emotional and behavioral functioning in the child, as well as reduce parental-stress in the parent. Thirty youths with AS/HFA enrolled in a 9-week social skills group at a clinic participated in this study, as well as their parents. Half were randomly assigned to receive Social Express. Results indicated that the treatment group showed significant improvements in social motivation compared to the control group. No significant main effects were found in regards to other social skills, internalizing problems, adaptive skills, parental stress, or life satisfaction; however, it should be noted that this study is limited by a small sample size. Other significant effects may exist, and should be investigated in the future with a larger sample size.


© 2015, Ryan M. Kelly