Special Education ETDs

Publication Date



Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the world, with the latest estimates showing that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with the condition. One of the core deficits associated with autism is social communication. Theory of mind (Baron-Cohen, 1985) posits that children with autism do not have the ability to understand that others have thoughts different from their own. This has been suggested as one of the main reasons that social communication deficits exist in children with autism. Motivation is likely the main component in effectively teaching many children with autism. Interventions that incorporate movies would seem to be promising. Movie Time Social Learning (Vagin, 2012) is one such intervention based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Social Thinking (Garcia-Winner, 2005). Children with autism often have specific deficits in the areas of emotion recognition, perspective taking and empathy. This study utilized Movie Time Social Learning intervention tools to target skills in these areas with three children with autism. The three participants were two males and one female, ages 8, 9 and 9 respectively, from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. All were verbal and had a diagnosis of autism. All three participants demonstrated considerable growth over baseline in the areas of emotion recognition and beginning perspective taking over the course of the twelve week study (mean increases of 73%, 35% and 31% respectively in emotion recognition and 68%, 35% and 22% in beginning perspective taking skills). All participants demonstrated some degree of generalization of skills outside of the clinic setting. Movie Time Social Learning would appear to be a great tool to teach social communication skills to children with autism. Parents remarked that they enjoyed using the strategies at home with their children. Interestingly, all participants performed with better accuracy while answering questions during previously unseen movies. Future research in this area should focus on utilization of parents and peers as mediators in multiple settings for maximum generalization.



Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Avila, Magdalena

Second Committee Member

Luckasson, Ruth

Third Committee Member

Griffin, Megan

Fourth Committee Member

Nettleton, Sandra