Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Elizabeth Nowicki


A review of existing literature pertaining to the social skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder provides a mixed picture: some researchers argue that social skills are altogether lacking, while others indicate that, in some instances, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder possess the same social skills as their typically developed peers. The purpose of this study was to examine the social competence of adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as the factors that contributed to or hindered adolescents’ social competence. A sample of 17 adolescents, with varying degrees of autism severity, together with their parents and teachers took part in this study. They were asked to complete a battery of social skill and theory of mind assessments, as well as to participate in a semi-structured interview. Results on the social skill and theory of mind assessments differed, with adolescents scoring themselves as having moderate-to-strong social abilities, while parents and teachers indicating the adolescent possessed few to no social skills. However, the thematic analysis of the semi-structured interview provided opinions that tended to converge in the middle. Specifically, the overall opinion of parents and teachers was that while adolescents in my study did not possess the social competence displayed by their typically developed peers, they did possess: (a) a desire to have close friendships and relationships with others; (b) a basic theory of mind ability; and (c) an ability to identify basic emotions presented visually. Recommendations were made in regards to improving community supports for Autism Spectrum Disorder, encouraging schools to teach about diversity and continuing to implement zero-tolerance policies towards bullying, and urging future researchers to further examine the social competence of adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.