How kids rate friendship potential of kids with autism

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 5.26.25 PMAs reported by The Examiner, a research study has demonstrated that children make very quick judgements about other children when looking at short videos of them. An updated report describes the study: 44 typically developing children answered 6 questions while watching 50-sec videoclips of other children answering interview questions1 (edited from a 10-min interview; see questions below). The children in the videos were typically developing and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The questions, according to the authors, “were designed to focus on either positive or neutral aspects of the actors*’ lives.”

The typically developing children answered the questions marking on a line with bipolar values “never” and “always” and the distance in cm from their mark and one end of the line was measured to yield the score. After watching each video, they answered:

  1. Would you tell him/her a secret?
  2. Would you play with him/her?
  3. Would you want to be friends with him/her?
  4. Do you think this person could help you with maths problem?
  5. Would he/she be unkind to you?
  6. Do you think they would like the same things as you?

If you have or work with  children on the spectrum, you can guess that the results demonstrated differences in the ratings of typically developing and children with autism, with more negative answers to the children with autism. The study was an attempt to systematically test how typically developing children make judgements about friendship during very brief exposure to another child. It concluded that kids make quick judgements and that children with autism are at disadvantage due to how they communicate.

The conclusion was based on a lot of statistical calculations2 that prevent the lay person to evaluate the strength of the study or the differences between the ratings of the two groups, and we can critique some of the method, but there is value to try to measure what children are observing and how they rate what they observe. The authors emphasize the importance of interventions to promote social skills with children with autism and to promote friendships between typically developing and kids with autism, in addition to interventions to “improve TD children’s attitudes towards their ASD peers…,” my emphasis.

We do have behavioral technology to teach children with autism important social skills that can improve their chances of making friends, and use it. We spend hours and hours instruction and shaping desirable social skills with our students and clients. We clearly need do more about educating everyone about differences and promoting positive behaviors toward people whose behavior deviates a little or a lot from each one’s norms. The authors mention the Children Friendship Training.

Do you know of any studies or manualized interventions to promote friendship between children typically developing and with autism that focuses not only on the behavior of the children with autism, but also on the typical peers?

1 Interview Questions During Interview with “actors”

  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What class are you in?
  4. Who is your teacher?
  5. Do you like her?
  6. Tell me about her
  7. Who is your best friend in school?
  8. Why do you like them?
  9. Have they ever done something to make you laugh?
  10. Tell me about it.
  11. Who is in your family?
  12. Who do you like best in your family?
  13. Why do you like them?
  14. What is your best thing that you do with them?
  15. Tell me about it
  16. What about your brothers/sisters?
  17. Do they make you laugh?
  18. Tell me about him/her/them
  19. Have you been away to the caravan/on holiday/on any special
  20. outings this year?
  21. Did you have a happy time?
  22. What did you like best?
  23. Tell me about it.
  24. Last few questions now –
  25. Do you have a special hobby or something you like best in
  26. the whole world – toy, game, book, film?
  27. Why do you like it?
  28. Tell me about it.
  29. OK questions are finished now.
  30. Do you have any questions for us?


* They were not actors. The term seems to have been chosen to differentiate the children rated and the children rating.

2 Stats of the results

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 4.27.10 PM