Safe Dating for Youth with ASD

Principal Investigator(s):
Megan Bair-Merritt, MD, MSCE
Emily Rothman, ScD
Grant Type:
Applied Research
Boston Medical Center Corporation
Boston, Massachusetts
Year Awarded:
Year Completed:
Behavior, Emotions, Mental Health; Health and Sensory Issues; Miscellaneous; Social and Communication Skills


Helping youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve healthy dating relationship related skills is a significant public health priority. Many youth with ASD require social skills and social information processing coaching, and risk experiencing unhealthy dating relationships. The overarching goal of this project is to develop a six-session healthy dating curriculum for youth with ASD, and a parent/caregiver. We will create a theoretically-driven curriculum by adapting Safe Dates, an evidence-based, ten-session, classroom-based curriculum that has been evaluated via multiple randomized controlled trials with neurotypical youth. We will ensure that our adaptation is feasible to implement and acceptable to users. We will adapt the content of Safe Dates to address both the social information processing differences and the unique strengths that youth with ASD may bring to relationships. The original 10-session, classroom-based, Safe Dates curriculum will be adapted into a six-session class delivered in real time but online for youth with ASD and one parent/caregiver, the content of sessions will be refined, and the material will be taught via highly interactive activities instead of lectures. We will use a rigorous adaptation process that includes input from key stakeholders. We then will pilot test the curriculum and conduct a mixed-methods evaluation of its acceptability and feasibility, as well as generate preliminary estimates of outcomes.


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