Preliminary evidence supporting the clinical utility of an Analog Task of Prosocial Helping.

Academic Article


  • BACKGROUND: Prosocial helping is a fundamental communication behaviour that supports successful social relationships. This study investigated the clinical utility of the Analog Task of Prosocial Helping (AToP-H): a tool for assessing how helping is influenced by the communicative function it serves and the cues used to elicit helping in young children with and without a social communication disorder. AIMS: To present evidence of the AToP-H's reliability, validity and clinical utility. METHODS & PROCEDURES: The AToP-H examines three communicative functions expressed through helping-instrumental (request-based), informative (information-based) and empathic (emotion-based) helping-within a naturalistic context. Prosocial helping is elicited using semi-structured interactions in which increasingly explicit cues are provided to scaffold child responses. To gather reliability and validity evidence, the AToP-H was administered to 20 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (49-79 months) and 20 with typical development (37-77 months). OUTCOMES & RESULTS: Procedural reliability and inter-observer agreement for the AToP-H were high. Item-level codes were consistent with overall task performance, showing strong internal consistency. Supporting construct validity, higher scores were observed in older children with ASD, consistent with an expectedly protracted developmental period for prosocial helping. Children with ASD required more cues to elicit helping overall and informative and empathic helping in particular. Furthermore, more children with ASD did not respond or required explicit cues to respond with informative and empathic helping. Supporting criterion-related validity, total helping cue scores were significantly correlated with measures of social cognition, social abilities and receptive language, but were only weakly correlated with general language. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: The AToP-H shows promise in measuring helping performance as an indicator of young children's social communication strengths and weaknesses as well as scaffolding cues to facilitate intervention planning. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: What is already known on the subject Prosocial helping is critical for successful relationships, which can be difficult for children with social communication disorders such as ASD. Two factors that influence helping are the communicative function of the helping behaviour and the cues used to elicit helping. Existing helping tasks have been developed for research purposes, focusing on internal validity with little attention to applying or generalizing results to clinical settings or groups. Thus, assessing factors that influence helping behaviours in naturalistic, ecologically valid contexts could provide clinicians with critical information to improve prosocial helping in children with social communication disorders. What this paper adds to existing knowledge This paper presents preliminary psychometric evidence for a naturalistic clinical task: the AToP-H, which assesses instrumental (request-based), informative (information-based) and empathic (emotion-based) helping elicited with increasingly explicit cues. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? Evidence from samples of young children with and without ASD supports the reliability and validity of AToP-H scores. The AToP-H shows promise as a clinical tool to effectively assess and plan interventions targeting social communication, prosocial helping and associated interactions.
  • Authors

  • Greenslade, Kathryn
  • Coggins, Truman E
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • July 2022
  • Keywords

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • assessment
  • psychometrics
  • reliability
  • social
  • validity
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 35373426
  • Start Page

  • 782
  • End Page

  • 795
  • Volume

  • 57
  • Issue

  • 4