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Social skills in neurodevelopmental disorders: a study using role-plays to assess adolescents and young adults with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.

BACKGROUNDS: Social skills are frequently impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic conditions, including 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although often assessed with questionnaires, direct assessment provides a more valid estimate of the constructs. Role-plays (i.e., simulates situational settings) therefore appear to be an appropriate indicator of social skills in daily life.

METHODS: This co-registered study involved 53 individuals with 22q11DS, 34 individuals with ASD, and 64 typically developing (TD) peers aged 12-30 years. All participants were assessed with role-plays as well as parent-reported questionnaires and clinical interviews focusing on social skills, functioning and anxiety.

RESULTS: Both clinical groups showed impaired social skills compared to TD, but distinct social profiles emerged between the groups. Individuals with 22q11DS displayed higher social appropriateness and clarity of speech but weaker general argumentation and negotiation skills, with the opposite pattern observed in participants with ASD. No association was found between social skills measured by direct observation and caregiver reports. Social anxiety, although higher in clinical groups than in TD, was not associated with role-plays.

CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the need to train social skills through tailored interventions to target the specific difficulties of each clinical population. It also highlights the importance of combining measures as they do not necessarily provide the same outcome.

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