Group teaching of conversational skills to adolescents on the autism spectrum

Wesley H. Dotson, Justin B. Leaf, Jan B. Sheldon, James A. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Adolescents with autism struggle with developing meaningful social relationships. Learning appropriate conversational skills can be an important first step in creating friendships. A procedure that has been effective in teaching conversational skills to typically developing adolescents is the teaching interaction procedure, which involves describing the target behavior, why it should be used, when it should be used, and the steps in the skill, modeling the behavior, and having the learner role-play. Throughout the teaching process, feedback is given to the adolescent. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the teaching interaction procedure could be used to teach adolescents with autism conversational skills in a group setting. Five children, four on the autism spectrum and one with ADHD, were taught conversational basics, how to give positive feedback to a speaker, and how to answer and ask open-ended questions. A multiple-probe design across behaviors and replicated across participants revealed that four of the five participants mastered all three conversational skills, while the fifth participant mastered two of the skills. While no participants fully generalized the skills to interactions with a typical peer, participants showed some generalization to those interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Adolescents
  • Autism
  • Group instruction
  • Social skills


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