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Social Skills Intervention for Adolescents with High Functioning Autism/Asperger

Award Information

Department of Health and Human Services
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2007 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
320 High Tide Drive SAINT AUGUSTINE, FL -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2007
Title: Social Skills Intervention for Adolescents with High Functioning Autism/Asperger
Agency: HHS
Contract: 1R43HD056578-01
Award Amount: $199,000.00


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Autism is a complex neurological disorder that affects 1.5 million individuals in this country. Inappropriate social interactions, one of the deficits common to individuals with autism, cause a myriad of negative outcom es including poor functioning in other areas and limited employment and personal options. Structural and functional abnormalities within the neural system are postulated to be part of the deficit in 'social intelligence', independent of general intelligenc e, identified in children with this disorder. Training intervention programs, when based on researched treatment methods that address this social intelligence component, can ameliorate these problematic behaviors in children with high functioning autism an d Asperger Syndrome (HFA/AS), disorders often grouped in the autism spectrum. We have joined forces with the TEACCH program (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children) in the Department of Psychiatry at the Universi ty Of North Carolina School Of Medicine and DigitalSpace, the oldest virtual worlds social networking platform, to propose a motivating intervention program called MeetMe. MeetMe augments conventional assimilation instruction therapy methods with virtual r eality-based social networking and multimedia compensation techniques to address unique cognitive deficits identified in this group. Implementation integrates novel combinations of gaming, streaming videos and shared virtual worlds to systematically segmen t social situations into discreet behaviors, explain denotation behind social exchanges, and encourage generalization through real-time practice with other people in dynamic shared social virtual environments. Program efficacy will be established with adol escents who have been diagnosed with HFA/AS through pre/post assessment of social behaviors learned and transferred to virtual worlds based on generalization probes. In Phase II the target behaviors will be extended to multiple social intelligence deficits identified in school, home, and public environments in this patient age group and efficacy will be assessed in a rigorous manner using larger subject trials. Internet delivery of all lessons and virtual spaces will guarantee broad geographic coverage and allow professionals to conveniently interact with children remotely, customizing therapy to underserved locations while establishing commercial value. This application will significantly increase treatment options for social deficits experienced by childre n with HFA/AS and provide clinicians with a proven intervention method that is usable with patients not now being served because of geographical limitations. This increased social competency can open new life and employment opportunities to these individua ls and benefit society by significantly lowering long term care costs, now averaging 35 billion dollars a year for autism. This project would provide a motivating and effective new behavior intervention program called MeetMe to teach appropriate social in teractions to adolescents with autism. Internet delivery will enhance and extend treatment methods possible for children at home, school, and remote locations where trained therapists are not available. In addition to contributing an innovative interventio n tool, the research conducted through this project will advance scientific knowledge regarding the use of multimedia tools for treatment in social and learning disorders and promote greater understanding of behavior intervention strategies for children wi th autism.

Principal Investigator:

Dorothy C. Strickland

Business Contact:
Small Business Information at Submission:


EIN/Tax ID: 562029750
Number of Employees: N/A
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No