Effects of Mind Reading Computer Instruction and In Vivo Rehearsal on the Emotion Encoding and Decoding of Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Smith-Sponholz, Rachael Ann
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This study evaluated the effects of a computer software program (i.e., Mind Reading) and in vivo rehearsal protocol on targeted emotion encoding and decoding skills, as well as the collateral impact on autistic symptomatology and social skills, of children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs). The sample consisted of 43 children, ages 8 to 12 years with HFASDs. Participants were randomly assigned to either the treatment or wait-list control group. Children assigned to the treatment received an average of 29.5 hours of the manualized treatment over 12 weeks. Active treatment components included structured use of Mind Reading software, in vivo rehearsal trials, and a behavioral reinforcement system. Children were assessed at pre-test, post-test, and a five-week follow-up. Outcomes were evaluated using two proximal measures (primary analyses) and three distal measures (secondary analyses). For primary analyses, ANCOVA results (controlling for pre-test) yielded significant between-groups differences on the proximal measures assessing the children's skills in decoding emotions in faces and voices (CAM-C Faces and CAM-C Voices) and parent ratings of the children's encoding and decoding skills (ERDS Receptive and ERDS Expressive) for content taught directly during treatment. Post hoc comparisons were significant at post-test and follow-up for the CAM-C Faces and Voices tests, and for the ERDS Expressive scale, and favored the treatment group. Post hoc comparisons for parent ratings on the ERDS Receptive scale were non-significant at post-test, but significant at follow-up, and favored the treatment group. For the secondary analyses, ANCOVA results (controlling for pre-test) were significant for the children's skills in decoding emotions in less familiar child faces (DANVA2 Child Faces) and parent ratings of the children's autism symptoms (SRS). Post hoc comparisons were significant at post-test for the DANVA2 Child Faces test (favoring the treatment group), but non-significant at follow-up. On the SRS, post hoc comparisons were significant at post-test and follow-up, and favored the treatment group. ANCOVA results were non-significant for the children's skills in decoding emotions in less familiar adult faces (DANVA2 Adult Faces) and parent ratings of the children's broad social skills (BASC-2 Social Skills). Implications for clinical treatments and future research are presented.