MAIER Faculty now Nationally Certified to Deliver PEERS Social Skills Intervention

The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills (PEERS) was developed at the UCLA Semel Institute by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson.  As of today, it is the only evidence-based social skills intervention for teens and young adults with autism that is supported by more than 30 research studies conducted worldwide. PEERS is a manualized, social skills training intervention for adolescents and young adults. It has a strong evidence-base for use with teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorders, but is also appropriate for teens and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socioemotional problems.

Drs. Deborah Rooks-Ellis and Sarah Howorth of MAIER have been certified by the Semel Institute to deliver this intervention and to train others to also deliver this intervention here in Maine.

PEERS Research at UMaine

This research involves assisting children and adults (ages 6-years-old to college-aged young adults) who have a diagnosis of either a Developmental Disability or an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Aspergers, Autism Spectrum disorder), in learning prosocial skills. This study will take place over the course of a 10-month school year and will teach social skills including: Conversational skills (i.e. entering and exiting conversations); electronic communication; appropriate use of humor; good sportsmanship; peer entry strategies; conflict management strategies; characteristics of friendships; planning get-togethers; dating etiquette; and handling teasing and bullying.

After intake surveys and interviews are conducted (75-90 minutes) and eligibility is determined, social skills groups and parent/social coaching groups will take place once per week for a total of 90 minutes at the University of Maine, Orono.  Participants and their parent/social coach will meet in two, separate but concurrently timed groups. Virtual videos recorded will be of the participant and their social skills group role-play partner (another participant) using a 360 camera (e.g.: Samsung Gear 3601) with 4K resolution to fully immerse both participants in the virtual experience.

PEERS for Young Adults

This past fall, 2019,  seven young adults and their social coaches have been participating in the PEERS for Young Adults weekly interpersonal skills training. These young adults have been learning conversational skills, how to pay attention to their humor feedback, skills for handling disagreements, dating etiquette, and procedures for handling direct and indirect bullying. Their social coaches have been guiding them through weekly out-of-group activities that help them to generalize these skills to their daily lives (i.e., school, jobs, and relationships).

We are currently recruiting for our Spring sessions to begin in mid-February 2020. If you are interested in participating or would like more information about this study, please contact the researchers by Email: ( or phone: 207-581-2352

Three graphs





This image demonstrates the effectiveness of the fall 2019 group on the development and maintenance of conversational skills for one participant. Each data point reflects the ability of each participant to complete the steps outlined for each conversational skill.