Int J Environ Res Public Health 19 (3) - [2022-01-28; online 2022-01-28]
Including students with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDDs) in regular classrooms has become a law-enforced common practice in many high- and middle-income countries. Still, without appropriate actions supporting the implementation of inclusive pedagogical practice, students with NDDs remain at increased risk for absenteeism, bullying and underachievement. There is limited knowledge on the feasibility of social skills group training (SSGT) in naturalistic settings. Using a qualitative approach, the objective of this study was to explore the lived experiences of (i) students diagnosed with autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and those showing subclinical social difficulties receiving either SSGT or active social control activities in a regular senior high school setting, (ii) teachers providing SSGT or the active control activity and (iii) school leaders facilitating the implementation of these actions. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, comparison between real life versus digital administration of SSGT was also examined. Within a randomized controlled pilot trial of the school-tailored SSGT SKOLKONTAKT®, the primary perspectives of 20 students, teachers and school leaders on SSGT or the social control activities were explored. All groups perceived SSGT to enhance school attendance and academic achievement of students, as well as teacher inclusion skills and the social school climate. Findings indicate that SSGT is largely feasible and socially valid, and broader implementation of SSGT in school settings appears meaningful.