Guest Interviews — 4 Minutes

Elizabeth Laugeson on the creation of PEERS

Guest Interviews — 4 Minutes

Elizabeth Laugeson on the creation of PEERS

Dr. Laugeson joins us from the INSAR conference in Montreal.

Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Laugeson is the Founder and Director of the UCLA PEERS® Clinic, which is an outpatient hospital-based program providing parent-assisted social skills training for preschoolers, adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other social impairments. She also serves as the Training Director for the UCLA Tarjan Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

Frampton Gwynette: Hello, I’m Frampton Gwynette from the Autism News NetWORK coming at you from Montreal, Quebec, Canada and we have a really special guest today. I’m here with Dr. Liz Laugeson who is a basically world renowned leader in social skills training for kids and adults with autism. She’s also an author. She provides talks all over the world and trainings all over the world. In terms of frequent flyer miles, she from LA to Montreal, I came from Charleston, South Carolina to Montreal. I think that’s the record for today. That’s a lot of distance.

Elizabeth Laugeson: A lot of distance.

Frampton Gwynette: Thank you for making time during this busy meeting. Welcome.

Elizabeth Laugeson: My pleasure. Thank you. Nice to see you.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, you too. We’re going to take our audience back just to like the origin of PEERS, which if they don’t know PEERS is the most evidence-based social skills training program for people with autism and take us back to before PEERS even existed. How did you think to invent it?

Elizabeth Laugeson: I was at UCLA on a pre doctoral psychology internship and I was actually studying fetal alcohol spectrum disorder at the time. I was interested in developmental disabilities and autism but my specialty was really FASD and I was working on a CDC study testing the effectiveness of the social skills intervention for kids with prenatal alcohol exposure and I’d never done social skills training before. I really hadn’t had an experience with that and the interesting thing was, even though this study was focused on kids with FASD, my phone was ringing off the hook from parents of teens with autism, just looking for anything in the community, anything and there was nothing. This is 2003 in Los Angeles, which is a pretty big metropolitan area. There’s nothing, no place to send them and I thought, well that’s absolutely unacceptable. I had the idea to develop an adolescent program focusing on friendship skills for teens with autism and I was very, very lucky I was able to secure an NIH T32 postdoctoral fellowship that gave me three years of funding to develop and test the PEERS intervention.

Frampton Gwynette: That was an investment on their part before it paid off really for the whole autism world. Yeah, because you’ve taken it from really a local program to doing trainings all over the world and how did you make that huge leap from just being based out of LA to then going all over the world to train others?

Elizabeth Laugeson: Yeah. I just I’m very passionate about dissemination and I don’t define dissemination the way some I think researchers do where you publish a paper and a PEER review journal and that is a type of dissemination but I really feel like if you develop an evidence based treatment, people should be able to access it and I’m sorry, but those are your taxpayer dollars. You probably want to make sure that whatever we develop is also accessible. I’m just very, very dedicated to that and I also tend to kind of think big sometimes. I didn’t believe that people should have to come to UCLA to access this program. I wanted to share it essentially and so I started by sharing it with research colleagues so that they could also test the effectiveness and it just sort of took on a life of its own and it now is an international program.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, I actually was fortunate to attend the UCLA training program about five years ago now but I remember how collegial it was and for those of you who have an opportunity to go out there and get trained with delivering PEERS, I would definitely recommend doing so because one of the great things you guys did was you gave us your clinical outcome measures or research outcome measures. You use the recipe and we’ve been able to bring that to our community in Charleston, South Carolina. Yeah, we’re really grateful for that.

Elizabeth Laugeson: Well, I’m grateful for the work that you do. I mean, again, I just, I think that there’s no reason that we can’t sort of share these programs with other people and no reason to hoard that stuff to all to ourselves.

Frampton Gwynette: Hello, I’m Frampton Gwynette from the Autism News NetWORK coming at you from Montreal, Quebec, Canada and we have a really special guest today. I’m here with Dr. Liz Laugeson who is a basically world renowned leader in social skills training for kids and adults with autism. She’s also an author. She provides talks all over the world and trainings all over the world. In terms of frequent flyer miles, she from LA to Montreal, I came from Charleston, South Carolina to Montreal. I think that’s the record for today. That’s a lot of distance.

Elizabeth Laugeson: A lot of distance.

Frampton Gwynette: Thank you for making time during this busy meeting. Welcome.

Elizabeth Laugeson: My pleasure. Thank you. Nice to see you.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, you too. We’re going to take our audience back just to like the origin of PEERS, which if they don’t know PEERS is the most evidence-based social skills training program for people with autism and take us back to before PEERS even existed. How did you think to invent it?

Elizabeth Laugeson: I was at UCLA on a pre doctoral psychology internship and I was actually studying fetal alcohol spectrum disorder at the time. I was interested in developmental disabilities and autism but my specialty was really FASD and I was working on a CDC study testing the effectiveness of the social skills intervention for kids with prenatal alcohol exposure and I’d never done social skills training before. I really hadn’t had an experience with that and the interesting thing was, even though this study was focused on kids with FASD, my phone was ringing off the hook from parents of teens with autism, just looking for anything in the community, anything and there was nothing. This is 2003 in Los Angeles, which is a pretty big metropolitan area. There’s nothing, no place to send them and I thought, well that’s absolutely unacceptable. I had the idea to develop an adolescent program focusing on friendship skills for teens with autism and I was very, very lucky I was able to secure an NIH T32 postdoctoral fellowship that gave me three years of funding to develop and test the PEERS intervention.

Frampton Gwynette: That was an investment on their part before it paid off really for the whole autism world. Yeah, because you’ve taken it from really a local program to doing trainings all over the world and how did you make that huge leap from just being based out of LA to then going all over the world to train others?

Elizabeth Laugeson: Yeah. I just I’m very passionate about dissemination and I don’t define dissemination the way some I think researchers do where you publish a paper and a PEER review journal and that is a type of dissemination but I really feel like if you develop an evidence based treatment, people should be able to access it and I’m sorry, but those are your taxpayer dollars. You probably want to make sure that whatever we develop is also accessible. I’m just very, very dedicated to that and I also tend to kind of think big sometimes. I didn’t believe that people should have to come to UCLA to access this program. I wanted to share it essentially and so I started by sharing it with research colleagues so that they could also test the effectiveness and it just sort of took on a life of its own and it now is an international program.

Frampton Gwynette: Yeah, I actually was fortunate to attend the UCLA training program about five years ago now but I remember how collegial it was and for those of you who have an opportunity to go out there and get trained with delivering PEERS, I would definitely recommend doing so because one of the great things you guys did was you gave us your clinical outcome measures or research outcome measures. You use the recipe and we’ve been able to bring that to our community in Charleston, South Carolina. Yeah, we’re really grateful for that.

Elizabeth Laugeson: Well, I’m grateful for the work that you do. I mean, again, I just, I think that there’s no reason that we can’t sort of share these programs with other people and no reason to hoard that stuff to all to ourselves.

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