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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Communication skills development after a drama program for children with social-pragmatic communication difficulties Meriano, Olivia


The current study set out to describe a drama-based group intervention (InterAct) for children with social (pragmatic) communication difficulties and examine the outcomes, with a particular focus on methodologies suitable to measuring potential change. Those with difficulties in this area may have limitations in the skills that are important for achieving successful interactions with others. As a result, they are likely to struggle to develop and maintain meaningful relationships and are at a higher risk of being socially isolated or depressed. InterAct was conducted over 10 weeks and utilized scripting, storytelling and improvisation. The over- arching goals of the program were for the children to develop: (1) more effective social behaviour and interaction; (2) greater socio-emotional awareness of themselves and others, including skills in modulation of their own communication; and (3) more confidence in their communication abilities. Participants were between the ages of 6 and 9 years and had a range of conditions affecting social communication: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), complex developmental behaviour disorder, social anxiety and/or more global developmental delays (n=6). Because there is no consensus on how to evaluate social (pragmatic) communication, outcomes were assessed using a range of standardized tests and non-standard measures of social cognition and behaviour, including communication samples, a false-belief task, Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS: Kiresuk & Sherman, 1968), a parent-report questionnaire and participant interviews. Results suggest that some participants in the InterAct program showed gains in inferencing, flexible thinking and emotional embodiment, including improvement on a false- belief task. No change was observed for recognition of non-social emotions due to pre-program ceiling effects. Parents and participants indicated satisfaction with the program. Participant feedback indicated highlights in: (1) activities and games; (2) forming meaningful relationships; and (3) self-assurance. Additionally, gains were made in observed social communication, as measured by Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS). Overall, the findings show promising results for use of drama as a form of speech-language therapy for children with social skill deficits. This study discussed methodological considerations for future studies, including the potential for GAS to capture progress in social communication.

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