Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 9, pp 2121–2134 | Cite as

Improving Socialization for High School Students with ASD by Using Their Preferred Interests

  • Robert Koegel
  • Sunny Kim
  • Lynn Koegel
  • Ben Schwartzman
Original Paper


There has been a paucity of research on effective social interventions for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in inclusive high school settings. The literature, however, suggests that incorporating the student with ASD’s special interests into activities may help improve their socialization with typical peers. Within the context of a multiple baseline across participants design, we implemented lunchtime activities incorporating the adolescent with ASD’s preferred interests that were similar to ongoing activities already available at the schools. Results showed this increased both level of engagement and their rate of initiations made to typical peers. Social validation measures suggest that both adolescents with ASD and typical peers enjoyed participating in these activities and that the results generalized to other similar activities.


Social High school Autism spectrum disorders Inclusion 



Thank you to the families with adolescents with ASD who participated and the high schools that collaborated with us in this research project. Funding for this research was provided by Autism Speaks. In addition, funding for this research was also provided in part by an URCA grant from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and by NIH research grant DC010924 from NIDCD. The authors also wish to thank the undergraduate research assistants: Kelsey Henry, Kelsee Kennedy, and Benjamin Baranes. Finally, Robert and Lynn Koegel are also partners in the firm, Koegel Autism Consultants, LLC.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, J. S., & Burch, M. R. (2002). Research methods in applied behavior analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, M. J., Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (1998). Increasing the social behavior of young children with autism using their obsessive behaviors. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 23, 300–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barlow, D. H., & Hersen, M. (1984). Single case experimental designs: Strategies for studying behavior change (2nd ed.). New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  5. Barton, E. E., Reichow, B., Wolery, M., & Chen, C. (2011). We can all participate! Adapting circle time for children with autism. Young Exceptional Children, 14(2), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauminger, H., & Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism. Child Development, 71(2), 447–456.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bellini, S. (2004). Social skill deficits and anxiety in high-functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19(2), 78–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bellini, S., Peters, J. K., Benner, L., & Hopf, A. (2007). A meta-analysis of school-based social skills interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 28, 153–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beresford, B., Tozer, R., Rabiee, P., & Sloper, P. (2007). Desired outcomes for children and adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders. Children and Society, 21, 4–16.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, W. H., Odom, S. L., & Conroy, M. A. (2001). An intervention hierarchy for promoting young children’s peer interactions in natural environments. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 21(3), 162–175.Google Scholar
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Retrieved from
  12. Charlop, M. H., Kurtz, P. F., & Casey, F. G. (1990). Using aberrant behaviors as reinforcers for autistic children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23(2), 163–181.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Filipek, P. A., Accardo, P. J., Baranek, G. T., Cook, E. H., Jr, Dawson, G., Gordon, B., et al. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 29(6), 439–484.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fombonne, E. (2003). Epidemiological surveys of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders: An update. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(4), 365–382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garrison-Harrell, L., Kamps, D., & Kravits, T. (1997). The effects of peer networks on social-communicative behaviors for students with autism. Focus on autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 12(4), 241–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ghaziuddin, M., Ghaziuddin, N., & Greden, J. (2002). Depression in persons with autism: Implications for research and clinical care. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(4), 299–306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haring, T. G., & Breen, C. G. (1992). A peer-mediated social network intervention to enhance the social integration of persons with moderate and severe disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 319–333.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hughes, C., Golas, M., Cosgriff, J., Brigham, N., Edwards, C., & Cashen, K. (2011). Effects of a social skills intervention among high school students with intellectual disabilities and autism and their general education peers. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 36(1), 46–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Humprhey, N., & Symes, W. (2011). Peer interaction patterns among adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream school settings. Autism, 15(4), 397–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kalyva, E., & Avramidis, E. (2005). Improving communication between children with autism and their peers through the ‘circle of friends’: A small-scale intervention study. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 18, 253–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knott, F., Dunlop, A. W., & Mackay, T. (2006). Living with ASD: How do children and their parents assess their difficulties with social interaction and understanding? Autism, 10(6), 609–617.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koegel, R. L., Fredeen, R., Kim, S., Danial, J., Rubinstein, D., & Koegel, L. K. (2012b). Using perseverative interests to improve interactions between adolescents with autism and their typical peers in school settings. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 14(3), 133–141.Google Scholar
  23. Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (2006). Pivotal response treatments for autism: Communication, social, and academic development. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  24. Koegel, L., Koegel, R. L., Shoshan, Y., & McNerney, E. (1999). Pivotal response intervention II: Preliminary outcome data. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 24(3), 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Koegel, L., Matos-Fredeen, R., Lang, R., & Koegel, R. (2011). Interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders in inclusive school settings. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 18(3), 421–588.Google Scholar
  26. Koegel, L., Robinson, S., & Koegel, R. L. (2009). Empirically supported intervention practices for autism spectrum disorders in school and community settings: Issues and practices. In W. Sailor, G. Dunlap, G. Sugai, & R. Homer (Eds.), Handbook of positive behavior support (pp. 149–176).Google Scholar
  27. Koegel, L., Vernon, T., Koegel, R. L., Koegel, B., & Paullin, A. W. (2012a). Improving socialization between children with autism spectrum disorder and their peers in inclusive settings. Journal of Positive Behavioral Intervention, 14(4), 220–227.Google Scholar
  28. Lasgaard, M., Nielsen, A., Eriksen, M. E., & Goossens, L. (2010). Loneliness and social support in adolescent boys with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 218–226.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Laushey, K. M., & Heflin, L. J. (2000). Enhancing social skills in kindergarten children with autism through the training of multiple peers as tutors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(3), 183–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Locke, J., Ishijima, E. H., Kasari, C., & London, N. (2010). Loneliness, friendship quality and the social networks of adolescents with high functioning autism in an inclusive school setting. Journal of Research in Special Education Needs, 10(2), 74–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matson, J. L., Matson, M. L., & Rivet, T. T. (2007). Social skills treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders: An overview. Behavior Modification, 31(5), 682–707.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McConnell, S. R. (2002). Interventions to facilitate social interaction for young children with autism: Review of available research and recommendations for educational intervention and future research. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorers, 32(5), 351–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McDonald, M. E., & Paul, J. F. (2009). Timing of increased autistic disorder cumulative incidence. Environmental Science and Technology, 44(6), 2112–2118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mesibov, G. B. (1984). Social skills training with verbal autistic adolescents and adults: A program model. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 14(4), 395–404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. National Institute of Mental Health. (2008). Autism spectrum disorders: Pervasive developmental disorders. Retrieved from
  36. Newschaffer, C. J., Falb, M. D., & Gurney, J. G. (2005). National autism prevalence trends from united states special education data. Pediatrics, 115(3), 277–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orsmond, G. I., Krauss, M. W., & Seltzer, M. M. (2004). Peer relationships and social and recreational activities among adolescents and adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(3), 245–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roekel, E. V., Scholte, R. H. J., & Didden, R. (2010). Bullying among adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence and perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 63–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rogers, S. (2000). Interventions that facilitate socialization in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(5), 399–409.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rutter, M. (2005). Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: Changes over time and their meaning. Acta Padiaticia, 95, 2–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Louca, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stichter, J. P., Randolph, J., Gage, N., & Schmidt, C. (2007). A review of recommended social competency programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptionality, 15(4), 219–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Strang, J. F., Kenworthy, L., Daniolos, P., Case, L., Wills, M. C., Martin, A., et al. (2012). Depression and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders without intellectual disability. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 406–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tse, J., Strulovitch, J., Tagalakis, V., Meng, L., & Fombonne, E. (2007). Social skills training for adolescents with asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(10), 1960–1968.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Whitaker, P., Barrett, P., Joy, H., Potter, M., & Thomas, G. (1998). Children with autism and peer group support: ‘Using circles of friends’. British Journal of Special Education, 25(2), 60–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wolery, M., Kirk, K., & Gast, D. L. (1985). Stereotypic behavior as reinforcer: Effects and side effects. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 15(2), 149–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Koegel
    • 1
  • Sunny Kim
    • 1
  • Lynn Koegel
    • 1
  • Ben Schwartzman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Koegel Autism Center, Graduate School of EducationUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations