Stanford Social Dimensions Scale (SSDS)

What is SSDS

The SSDS was developed by researchers from the Stanford Autism Center to enable detailed assessment of key social processes and skills that, if impaired, can impede one’s ability to navigate the complexities of the social world. These processes include first and foremost the motivation to engage in social interactions, as well as skills necessary for initiating, maintaining, and ending social interactions and the ability to perceive and interpret social signals. Disruption of any of these processes can result in social deficits seen in people with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and with range of other neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, the SSDS allows researchers and clinicians to gain a detailed insight into strengths and weaknesses in key social skills for each individual.  More The SSDS was developed, refined and validated through several iterative steps:

Development: An initial set of items was conceptually developed after a comprehensive literature review, and through consultation with clinical and research experts in the field of ASD. A broad set of items were designed to tap assess (i) drive or desire to interact socially and affiliate with others; (ii) ability to communicate through facial and non-facial expressions (body posture, gestures and prosody); (iii) ability to recognize basic social and emotional signals conveyed through the face, body, and tone of voice and the ability to interpret mental states. 

Validation: Items were piloted online with a group of 100 parents of typically developing children and children with a range of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders to evaluate whether parents perceived items as meaningful and applicable to their child and whether any of the items were unclear or difficult to understand. Ninety-seven percent of parents indicated that they considered questions as moderately to highly meaningful and 88% reported no issues with item clarity. Factor analysis was conducted in (i) a sample of 175 children and adolescents with ASD and (ii) a separate sample of 624 children who were either typically developing or had a diagnosis of neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric disorder. The following five-factors emerged across both samples:

  1. Social Motivation (example items, “In a social situation, attempts to play with other children instead of avoiding the group”, “Prefers to play with children rather than alone”)
  2. Social Affiliation (example items, “Will try to get my attention or interact with me, without being reminded to do so,” “When enjoying something, he/she tries to share that enjoyment with me”)
  3. Expressive Social Communication ( “Vocalizes and makes eye contact with me when he/she makes a request” and “When a familiar person tries to engage with my child, she/he responds positively and appropriately by smiling, saying hello etc”)
  4. Social Recognition (example items, “Understands complex nonverbal gestures used by another person” and “Reads subtle emotions [ex: ashamed, jealous, pleased] in others through their facial expressions”)
  5. Unusual Approach (example items, “Begins interactions/conversations in ways that seem unusual to others” and “Has trouble understanding personal space (e.g., stands too close to others when interacting)”)

Derived factors showed excellent reliability and construct validity (as evidenced by Composite Reliability Index scores ≥ .72 and item-item and item-subscale correlations) and strong convergent and divergent validity (as evidenced by the pattern of correlations with a range of other social functioning and general psychopathology measures). 

Where can I found out more about the research using the SSDS 

You can find more detailed information on the SSDS development and validation by reading our paper published in the Molecular Autism by clicking here .

You can read on the usefulness of the SSDS for identifying subgroups of individuals with ASD who show specific profiles of strengths and weaknesses across different social processes and skills in our paper published in Autism Research by clicking here .

To keep up to date with the most recently published papers that used the SSDS, please click on the “Research on SSDS” tab below. 

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SSDS Description, Administration and Scoring

The SSDS is a 71-item questionnaire measure. The first 58 items are appropriate for any child of any language level and have been factor analyzed. An additional 13 items are language-based items suitable for verbal individuals. More The SSDS was originally designed as a parent/caregiver questionnaire suitable for parents who have a child of any age. The self-report version for children and adolescents as well as the self-report version for adults are planned but have not yet been developed.

The SSDS is a dimensional, quantitative measure designed to capture individual differences in social motivation, affiliation, social communication, recognition and unusual approach in both normative and clinical populations. Research is currently underway to develop standardized, regression based norms that will allow clinicians and researchers to compare a particular child’s scores to the expected scores for a child of the same sex, age, and similar cognitive ability. The SSDS is not intended to be used as a diagnostic or screening instrument. 

Each of the items is rated on 5-point likert scale (from 1= “Never true” to 5= “Always true”) and the ratings reflect observations of behavior within the past month. The following nineteen items are to be reverse scored:

3, 6, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 39, 43, 46, 47, 48, 50, 55, 60, 65, 68, 69

SSDS subscores scores are calculated by adding the following items:

Social Motivation:

2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 37, 46

Social Affiliation:

1, 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 52

Expressive Social Communication:

24, 25, 38, 40, 41, 42, 57

Social Recognition:

16, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 51

Unusual Approach:

22, 26, 39, 48

Higher scores reflect better skills and lower scores reflect poorer skills/higher impairment.

The SSPS syntax for item reverse scoring and subscale score calculation can be downloaded below. We are in the process of  translating the document into various languages and will add below.

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How to Obtain the SSDS

The SSDS is available free of charge for use in research and clinical practice. The SSDS was originally developed in English. We are currently working on translation and validation of the SSDS to other languages and several translations are already available. If you would like access to download the current versions of the SSDS, please fill out the online form by clicking here

If  you are interested in translating the SSDS, please contact us at autismdd@stanford.edu . 

Research Using SSDS

Below are references and links of the studies that have used the SSD.

Phillips, J. M., Uljarević, M., Schuck, R., Schapp, S., Solomon, E. M., Salzman, E., Allerhand, L., Libove, R. A., Frazier, T. W., & Hardan, A. Y. (2019). Development of the Stanford Social Dimensions Scale (SSDS): Initial validation in autism spectrum disorder and in neurotypicals. Molecular Autism, 10:48. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-019-0298-9

Uljarević, M., Phillips, J. M., Schuck, R. K., Schapp, S., Solomon, E. M., Salzman, E., Allerhand, L., Libove, R. A., Frazier, T. W., & Hardan, A. Y. (2020; early online). Exploring Social Subtypes in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Preliminary Study. Autism Research. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2294          

Dimensions Scale (SSDS): Initial validation in autism spectrum disorder and in neurotypicals. Molecular Autism, 10:48, http://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-019-0298-9

Terms and Conditions of Use

If you would like to use the SSDS, please be aware of the terms and conditions listed below.

  • The SSDS is available free of charge for use in research and clinical practice.
  • There should be no charge to families for the use of this instrument.
  • Please do not distribute the SSDS to other researchers or clinicians for use. Please ask them to contact us first.
  • The SSDS should be used as is, without changing the order of items, wording of questions, or number of items administered.
  • Unauthorized translation is not permitted. If you notice an error, please contact us at autismdd@stanford.edu.
  • If you publish any work using the SSDS, please cite the following as the source:                                                                                             
  • Phillips, J. M., Uljarević, M., Schuck, R., Schapp, S., Solomon, E. M., Salzman, E., Allerhand, L., Libove, R. A., Frazier, T. W., & Hardan, A. Y. (2019). Development of the Stanford Social