Autism and its related disorders are commonly described as lying along a continuum that ranges in severity and are collectively referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Despite the fact that all individuals with ASD meet the social impairment diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-IV-TR, they do not all present with the same social difficulties. The variability in the expression and severity of social competence is particularly evident among the group of individuals with “high functioning” ASD who appear to have difficulty applying their average to above average intelligence in a social context. There is a striking paucity of empirical research investigating individual differences in social functioning among individuals with high functioning ASD as well as the implications of these differences on long-term outcomes. It is possible that more detailed investigations of social competence within ASD have been impeded by the lack of standardized measures available to assess the nature and severity of social impairment. The current study aimed to develop and evaluate a parent rating scale capable of assessing individual differences in social competence (i.e., social strengths and weaknesses) among adolescents with ASD. Results from confirmatory factor analyses supported the hypothesized multidimensional factor structure of the scale. Seven relatively distinct domains of social competence were identified including social motivation, social inferencing, demonstrating empathic concern, social knowledge, verbal conversation skills, nonverbal sending skills, and emotion regulation. Psychometric evidence provided preliminary support for the reliability and validity of the scale and included indices of internal consistency, convergent validity, discriminant validity, criterion-related validity, and known groups validity. Possible applications of this newly developed parent rating scale in both research and clinical settings are discussed.
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Thesis advisor: Iarocci, Grace
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