Adolescents with autism are far less likely than their peers with other disabilities to hang out with friends after school or attend group activities. A Washington University researcher recently found that half of teenage students with autism spectrum disorders were significantly more likely than teens with learning disabilities, mental retardation and speech and language impairments to not be invited out to social activities. Analyzing data-including surveys of parents and school officials-on 11,000 special education students, Paul Shattuck, an autism expert and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, found that kids with autism are more isolated than their peers and tend to interact in one-on-one situations. "Not surprisingly, conversational impairment and low social communication skills were associated with a lower likelihood of social participation," Shattuck says in the study.It suggests group activities and programs, such as clubs and sports, as one area of intervention. But perhaps less obvious is the potential of social networking in promoting such relationships.Shattuck recommends that future research study ways to take advantage of electronic media to help those with autism spectrum disorders improve their interactions and connections with others in social situations.