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  • Research Opportunity Through The Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance: PEERS for Preschoolers Study

THG-UCLA Autism Alliance

The Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance is an innovative partnership between The Help Group and the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. The Alliance is dedicated to enhancing and expanding clinical research in the education and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to contributing to the development, greater understanding, and use of best practice models by researchers, educators and clinicians. 

Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson is the Director the Alliance and the UCLA PEERS®  Clinic, an outpatient clinic providing parent-assisted social skills training for adolescents and young adults with ASD and other social impairments. PEERS® classes focus on skills like having conversations, joining conversations, choosing appropriate friends, having get-togethers with friends, handling arguments and peer conflict and handling teasing and bullying.

Previous research with PEERS® showed significant improvements in social skills for adolescents and young adults with ASD who struggle with navigating the social world. However, social impairments associated with an ASD diagnosis are evident from an even earlier age. These impairments in young children are likely to magnify with development and have been linked to peer rejection, social isolation, academic difficulty, and the development of mood and anxiety problems. Given that these social deficits are apparent before adolescence and may increase with age, evidence-based interventions explicitly addressing social functioning in young children with ASD are imperative. 

In a new study conducted by Dr. Laugeson, researchers are examining the benefit of PEERS for Preschoolers, a 16-week parent-assisted intervention for young children between the ages of 4 to 6 with ASD who are having difficulty making and/or keeping friends. The intervention will target social skills fundamental to friendship development using treatment delivery methods established by the UCLA PEERS® program. Novel aspects of this intervention include parent training and real life social coaching by parents during children’s play with the help of the treatment team.

For more information on PEERS for Preschoolers, please visit the UCLA PEERS website at www.semel.ucla.edu/peers or contact the research team at (310) 267-3377 or peersclinic@ucla.edu. The UCLA PEERS® Clinic can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/uclapeers