Leann Smith DaWalt, PhD

Smith DaWalt Slide of the Week 2017

Title: Transitioning Together: A Multi‐Family Group Psychoeducation Program for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Their Parents

Legend: Repeated measures ANCOVA indicated significant improvement in social interactions for adolescents with ASD in the Transitioning Together intervention condition from pre- to post-intervention; there were no significant differences in social engagement from pre- to post-intervention for adolescents in the control group.

Citation: DaWalt, L. S., Greenberg, J. S., & Mailick, M. R. (2017) Transitioning Together: A multi‐family group psychoeducation program for adolescents with ASD and their parents. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Epub ahead of print.

Abstract: Currently there are few evidence-based programs available for families of individuals with ASD during the transition to adulthood. The present study provided a preliminary evaluation of a multi-family group psychoeducation intervention using a randomized waitlist control design (n = 41). Families in the intervention condition participated in Transitioning Together, an 8-week program designed to reduce family distress and improve social functioning for adolescents. Findings indicated significant improvements in parental depressive symptoms and problem-solving from pre- to post-intervention for parents in the intervention condition but not for parents in the control condition. Social interactions also improved for youth in the intervention condition relative to controls. Parents reported satisfaction with the program and particularly valued the opportunity to interact with other families.

About the Lab: The Lifespan Family Research program is dedicated to understanding the impact of having a child with a developmental disability on the family as well as the role of the family in supporting healthy development for individuals with disabilities such as ASDs and fragile X syndrome. Smith DaWalt’s work examines trajectories of development for adolescents and adults with disabilities and the contextual factors associated with positive outcomes. Her research also centers on developing and evaluating intervention programming for youth and young adults with ASD. For example, with funding from NIMH, Smith DaWalt is currently conducting a randomized waitlist control trial of a psychoeducation intervention for young adults with ASD and their families. Also, in partnership with colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and San Diego State University, the lab is employing an implementation science framework to test a comprehensive treatment model for high school students with ASD. This study includes a sample of over 500 students from 60 high schools across the country (including 20 high schools in Wisconsin). Through these efforts, they seek to understand how to best support individuals with disabilities and their families during life course transitions.

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