Importance: Low social competence is one of the most complex and resistant challenges faced by adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Occupational therapy practitioners have recognized the potential benefits of using the arts, including training in magic tricks, as a therapeutic medium to improve and enhance clients’ psychosocial well-being.
Objective: To describe the efficacy of a virtual magic trick training program (MTTP) to enhance social skills and self-esteem in adolescents with ASD.
Design: Pragmatic, nonrandomized, wait-list controlled trial with 1-mo follow-up.
Setting: Participants’ homes.
Participants: Seventeen adolescents (ages 9−15 yr) with ASD participated in the MTTP, 9 in the first cohort and 8 in the second (wait-list control) cohort.
Intervention: Participants received magic trick training from occupational therapy students in pairs via videoconferencing in 45-min sessions, 3 days/wk, for 3 wk.
Outcomes and Measures: Participants completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Social Skills Improvement System before and after participating in the program.
Results: Between-cohort effect sizes (Cohen’s d) were 0.58 for social skills and 0.66 for self-esteem, considered moderate effects. Combining the two cohorts revealed significant improvements in social skills and self-esteem, with gains maintained at 1-mo follow-up.
Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this study support our hypothesis that adolescents with ASD who participate in the 3-wk virtual MTTP can experience enhanced social skills and self-esteem.
What This Article Adds: Learning magic tricks through individual coaching from occupational therapy students in a virtual environment can enhance the social skills and self-esteem of adolescents with ASD.