Assessing and Predicting Social Emotional Learning Competencies in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Social emotional learning skills, or SEL, is a burgeoning area of study which includes areas such as responsible decision making, self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship skills which are essential in order to successfully navigate the world. These SEL skills are likely delayed for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Some of the hallmarks that individuals with ASD often face are deficits in the acquisition of social and emotional skills and awareness of these skills in others. Given that individuals with ASD struggle within these areas, this project sought to investigate a narrowed focus into the development of SEL skills, specifically, by looking at how factors such as IQ, gender, ethnicity, and SES influence skill development. This paper posed two questions: 1.) What are the typical SEL competencies exhibited by individuals (aged 3-21) with ASD? 2.) To what extent does intellectual functioning (e.g., Full Scale IQ) influence the overall SEL competency of an individual with ASD (when considering individual factors of SES, gender, race/ethnicity)? For the first question, data was collected from a previous study which included SELSI parent ratings of neurotypical children. This data was then used to compare to new data collected from this study where caregivers completed the SELSI for their children with ASD. The two groups were compared on the parent reported SELSI using group means. When comparing the two groups among individuals aged 6-11, it was found that neurotypical individuals were rated higher across all areas. For the second question, hierarchical linear regressions were used to examine whether individual factors impacted SEL competencies. The first step in the models included individual variables of gender, race/ethnicity, and SES. The second step in the models added IQ to determine the additional variance predicted above that of the demographic variables. Results of the models indicated that individual variables were not significant predictors of SEL; however, IQ was a significant predictor of SEL skills in preschool and child samples only. The results of this project suggest SEL skills lag in development for individuals with ASD compared to their neurotypical peers and may be important to consider in educational assessment and intervention planning.

Autism, Social-Emotional Learning