KONTAKT® social skills group training for Australian adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial

Bahareh Afsharnejad, Marita Falkmer, Melissa H. Black, Tasha Alach, Fabian Lenhard, Anna Fridell, Christina Coco, Kelly Milne, Sven Bölte, Sonya Girdler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While there is a large body of evidence drawn from randomised controlled trials supporting the efficacy of SSGT in autistic adolescents, the control arms of these studies are almost exclusively treated either as usual or waitlist. Addressing this limitation, 90 verbal autistic adolescents (70% male) aged 12–17 years (M = 13.77, SD = 1.6) with IQ > 70 participated in this pragmatic two-armed randomised controlled trial design study evaluating the efficacy of sixteen 90-min sessions of SSGT KONTAKT® (n = 46) in comparison to a manualised interactive group cooking programme (n = 44) of equal dosage controlling for the potentially confounding effects of exposure to a social group context. The primary outcome was the adolescents’ progress towards achieving their personally meaningful social goals at follow-up. Secondary outcomes were changes in autistic traits, quality of life, facial emotion recognition skills, social anxiety, and loneliness. Assessments were conducted at baseline, post intervention and 12-week follow-up. The interaction between time point and group allocation was investigated through a random-effects regression model (linear mixed model) to examine changes in the dependent outcomes. While intention-to-treat analysis (N = 90) demonstrated that both SSGT (ES = 1.36, p <.001) and active control (ES = 1.10, p <.001) groups made progress towards their personally meaningful social goals at follow-up, KONTAKT® participants demonstrated greater progress in social goal attainment than their peers in the active control group (ES = 0.35, p =.04). Findings suggest that KONTAKT® is efficacious in supporting autistic adolescents to achieve their personally meaningful social goals compared to other prosocial group activities. Trial registration: (1) Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12617001117303, registered 31 July 2017, anzctr.org.au; (2) ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03294668 registered 22 September 2017, https://clinicaltrials.gov.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2021

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