PEERS (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is a parent-assisted intervention focussing on teens in middle school and high school who are having difficulty making or keeping friends. It has been developed at the University of California (UCLA), USA by Dr. E Laugeson & Dr. F Frankel and has been field tested extensively on teens with developmental disabilities. PEERS focuses on skills like having conversations, entering and exiting conversations, using electronic forms of communcation, choosing appropriate friends, handling teasing, bullying and other forms of social rejection, handling arguments and disagreements with friends and having appropriate get-togethers with friends including how to be a good host and a good sport.
Typically developing teens often learn basic rules of social etiquette through observation of peer behaviour and specific instruction from parents. Some adolescents especially those with autism, ADHD and other development delays often require further instruction. Learning to make and keep friends is especially difficult for these people because the natural development and transmission of necessary “peer etiquette” requires positive and sustained interaction with peers and learning from best friends. People with autism and ADHD are frequently isolated and this makes the deficits in knowledge of peer etiquette even more pronounced. Further, when this goes untreated, many adults lack the community connections and friendships that are taken for granted by typically developing people.
PEERS aims to train them in techniques that will improve knowledge of rules of social etiquette relevant to making and keeping friends. It aims to increase the frequency of get-togethers at home and in the community with friends thereby increasing the quality of friendships and frequency of peer interactions at the end of the program. Coaching of the parents will enable them to continue being their teens’ social coaches at home and they will be well versed in the various aspects of making and keeping friends, handling bullying, teasing and rejection faced by their teens.