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“I Feel like I’m Changing My Culture”: Social Validity of the PEERS Program for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families


This dissertation explored the effectiveness of a well-researched social skills intervention for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder for ethnically and linguistically diverse families. The UCLA PEERS program (Laugeson et al., 2009; 2012) has largely been studied using predominately White and affluent populations; thus, the study explored whether families who completed the program have any recommendations for adaptation to the program in order to improve their experience in it, as well as recommendations for making the program more culturally sensitive. The study utilized a total sample of 13 adolescents with ASD and their families who completed the 16-week PEERS program in two separate, non-randomized groups (group 1 n=7, group 2 n=6) with program content delivered bilingually. The aim of the study was to determine if (a) adolescents receiving PEERS achieve gains in social skills (SSIS; Gresham & Elliot, 2008), improvements in social impairments (SRS-2; Constantino & Gruber, 2012), demonstrate self-reported PEERS-specific knowledge (TASSK; Laugeson & Frankel, unpublished), and maintain gains over a four-month follow up period, (b) understand if parents and adolescents find the PEERS program to be socially valid and useful and (c) identify any cultural adaptations to aide in the cultural validation of the program for Latinx families. Results of three repeated measures ANOVAs found significant changes from pre-to-post on the study’s three outcome measures (SSIS, SRS-2, and TASSK), results from post-to-follow up (four months after the end of the program) were non-significant, indicating that skills gained from the program were maintained post-intervention. Parents and adolescents endorsed feeling satisfied with the intervention content and bilingual groups; they also endorsed recommending it to others. Although the intervention was largely accepted in its current format, a few suggestions were put forth on how to adapt the program to be more sensitive to traditional Latinx parenting practices. Findings provide support for non-traditional forms of program delivery as a way to increase diversity in intervention research.

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