The Social Tools And Rules for Teens (START) Program is an engaging, peer-facilitated program designed to improve the social confidence and competence of adolescents on the autism spectrum.  

This peer-led program combines a fun, safe, social club-like atmosphere with opportunities to hang out with others, play fun activities, and discuss social challenges and successes. 

There are a growing number of published scientific articles supporting the efficacy of this UCSB-developed program.


Thanks to the generous support of the Stepanek Foundation, we are now recruiting for our START Connections Program (a Social Interaction Group for Teens on the Autism Spectrum) as part of a research study! 

Eligible teens will be randomly assigned to either an online or in-person version of our START Connections Peer-Facilitated, Club-Like Program.

Both START Programs...

  • Are peer-facilitated, club-like programs run by trained undergraduates and high school volunteers
  • Include fun icebreakers, social activities, games, discussion topics, roleplays, and TV/movie clips.
  • Are designed to create a welcoming, safe environment where teens can be themselves while connecting with others and learning new skills
  • Are supervised by a psychology doctoral student and a UCSB faculty member who is a licensed psychologist
  • Are designed to improve social skills, understanding, and motivation
  • Include monitoring of social skills improvements via analysis of video-recorded conversations with your teen


Days & Times: Sessions will be offered two afternoons a week for 10 weeks (20 sessions total). Weekly meeting days will be either Monday & Wednesday or Tuesday & Thursday from 4:30-6:00pm based on which group you are randomly assigned to.

To Qualify: Teens must have a diagnosis of autism, be 12-17 years of age, live within one hour of UC Santa Barbara, be able to speak and understand full sentences, and meet other criteria to qualify.

For more information contact us at (anielabordofsky@ucsb.edu) or (805) 893-2049.