Posted: May 25th, 2022

Social-Behavioral Learning Strategy

Social-Behavioral Learning Strategy Training on the Social Interaction Skills of Four Students with Asperger Syndrome by Marjorie Bock

The study focuses on three interrelated questions. 1. Can children with Asperger Syndrome learn the SODA (Stop, Observe, Deliberate, and Act) strategy to guide information processing during non-guided social interactions? 2. If children with Asperger Syndrome can learn the SODA strategy, will they use it during non-guided social interactions? 3. If children with Asperger Syndrome use SODA in non-guided social interactions will its use help them with problem solving during these interactions?

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Theoretical Foundation

One of the theoretical underpinnings of what is known about Asperger Syndrome is that children with Asperger Syndrome face difficulties in social interactions, largely due to a perceived inability to understand age-appropriate social customs. This failure is not believed to be due to a lack of desire to interact in socially appropriate ways, but due to an inability to determine socially appropriate methods of interaction. These perception difficulties have been linked to problems with executive functioning. Therefore, a significant amount of interventions for children on the Autism spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, is aimed at improving executive functioning. In fact, behavior modification has long been a critical component in intervention strategies aimed at helping children with Asperger Syndrome.


This was a small four-subject study. The participants, Bob, Joe, Alex, and Craig, were all male students who had been independently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome after a full clinical assessment by clinicians with experience in autism and Asperger diagnosis. The study participants were close in age, ranging from 9 years 3 months to 10 years 6 months. They came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, and were all from middle income families. All of the boys lived in rural communities in the same geographic region. All of the participants had non-verbal IQs within the normal range, but met DSM-IV-RT criteria for lack of gross language delay development. Other than Asperger Syndrome, the participants did not have a history of other psychiatric or neurological disorders. None of the participants was on prescribed medications during the course of the study. The participants had received interventions prior to the study; specifically, they received a one-year long, 2.5 hours per week, social skills instruction that followed the Theory of Mind intervention model (Bock, 2007). The control participants in the study were boys without disabilities who were in the same classes as the four boys with Asperger Syndrome.


The study occurred at the elementary schools already attended by the boys. The educators who were responsible for implementation at each of the elementary schools had taught students with Asperger syndrome for at least 5 years, had a master’s degree in special education, and were certified to work with autism spectrum disorders. The educators worked with the author to create 3 SODA stories each to be used for teaching the participants the SODA method. The SODA stories were written specifically for each individual child and geared towards each of three interventions. They also developed a teaching script to go along with each of the SODA scripts. Four aides and two graduate students collected data during the period of the study. The researchers used a multiple-baseline across setting design to measure social behavior with and without the SODA intervention and for five months following the intervention. After measuring baseline behavior with no interventions, the educators began the SODA interventions. Prior to each relevant social period, the students were given the SODA scripts and given the opportunity to discuss it with the teachers. The researchers were counting the incident of replacement behaviors that the children had learned through the SODA intervention: participation in cooperative learning activities for the entire duration of the activity; playing an organized game; and visiting with peers while eating lunch.


During their baseline assessment all four of the boys had a baseline score at or below 23%. Their scores increased significantly, most of them near 50% with SODA training and remained elevated for the five-month period after finishing SODA training. In addition, they answered post-intervention questions about the SODA training correctly, which demonstrated long-term knowledge of the SODA strategy. They also indicated that they were continuing to apply the SODA strategies they had learned in the applicable scenarios. Bob even indicated that he had attempted to apply the SODA strategy in another class. Bob also demonstrated improved performance after SODA training had concluded.

Relevance / Importance of the Research to the Field

One of the most outwardly noticeable signs of Asperger Syndrome is that many people with the syndrome appear awkward in social settings. They oftentimes do not seem to know the socially appropriate ways to respond in various different settings. This can leave them feeling isolated, alone, and unable to connect with others, despite having a strong desire to relate to others. Moreover, these problems linger over a lifetime and have been seen as a manifestation of problems with executive functioning. Interventions aimed at helping teach people how to respond in socially appropriate manners despite the gap in executive functioning have previously proven helpful, and this research built upon prior research. More specifically, it looked at the efficacy of the SODA model in childhood interventions. While the study size was limited, it certainly supported the idea that the SODA model could improve social interactions for children with Asperger Syndrome. Furthermore, it suggested that these improvements could be long-term. The size of the improvement also suggests that the same type of interventions should be used with other people who fall along the autism spectrum. While the research does not draw upon a large enough sample to give it tremendous predictive ability, it does provide very promising evidence of an intervention that could improve the social skills of children with Asperger Syndrome. In addition, there is nothing in the study that seems as if it would harm the students, even if the intervention was not successful. As a result, the research could help highlight a new intervention for children with Asperger Syndrome.

Evaluation of the Claims of the Study

The claims of the study are very modest and acknowledge the limitations of generalizing from a four person study to a larger population. However, the study results do provide evidence that SODA training can help improve social behaviors for children with Asperger Syndrome. All of the children in the study showed improvements in their social interactions after intervention when compared to a baseline measure and these interventions seemed persistent. All of the claims made by the researcher are supported by the results of the study. Moreover, the study is easy to replicate, so that the consistency and reliability of the results could be assessed, even with additional small research groups. The researcher even does a good job of outlining the limitations of the study.


Bock, M. (2007). The impact of social-behavioral learning strategy training on the social interaction skills of four students with Asperger Syndrome, Focus on Autism and other Behavioral Disabilities, 22(2), 88-95.

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