Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Bruce D Homer

Committee Members

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

David Rindskopf

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Psychology | School Psychology


autism. social skills, intervention, friendship, double empathy problem, virtual reality


The purpose of this study was to replicate findings of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relation Skills (PEERS) parent-assisted social skills training program for a diverse group of adolescents with historical autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses in an urban locality. Additionally, this study sought to pilot a 3D multi-user virtual environment for adolescent participants and an online learning community for parent coaches; both hypothesized to reinforce the social skills curriculum. A randomized controlled trial of PEERS was completed with 12 adolescents diagnosed with ASD with some participation from their caregivers. Results show that participants who received the intervention had higher scores on social skills assessments, reduced autism spectrum symptomatology, and less problem behaviors as compared to the control group. Participants were able to navigate the online learning community and complete simple tasks in the 3D virtual environment throughout the intervention. Implications for practitioners and families were considered.