March 6, 2003
The first of the ten articles to be discussed examined a training program that consisted of an individualized, classroom-based social skills intervention. In the study, there were 45 children with learning disabilities 9-12 years old. These children were in self-contained special education classrooms. Thirteen children received intervention for 6 weeks and 7 children received intervention for 12 weeks. The remaining 25 children were in the control group, which received no intervention. The intervention consisted of the SST and AST programs. These programs were designed to facilitate social problem solving, role-playing, and modeling of appropriate social behavior. The children were given the treatment in the form of games much like Monopoly. Moderate gains in social skills and a decrease in problem behavior were found in the group of thirteen children who received the 6-week intervention when compared to the control group. Corresponding changes were not observed for the group of 7 children who received 12 weeks of intervention. The study suggested that this was due to the dynamics of that particular classroom. Additionally, the authors commented that a threat to validity in this study was the lack of random assignment of students to groups. An interesting result of this study was that the intervention prevented deterioration of peer relations while not actually improving peer acceptance. (Weiner & Harris, 1997).
A second research study considered language learning disabilities and social skills. This study employed 100 children 8-12 years old. 50 children had language learning disabilities and 50 control children did not. The 100 children, children with LLD and the control children, were given measures in intelligence, language skill, and social discourse individually in interviews over an hour and a half. Furthermore, their teachers were asked to complete a Social Skills Rating Scale that compared the children to “typical children” of the same age and in the same grade. Children with LLD had significantly lower performance IQ scores than the children without LLD. Children with LLD demonstrated impaired language skills, for both receptive and expressive language, when compared to the control group. Children with LLD displayed poorer social discourse skills and were rated lower in social competence by their teachers. The children were also examined for differences in problem behavior. ANCOVA was used to analyze problem behavior. It was determined that the children with LLD showed significantly more problem behaviors than the children without LLD. Researchers illustrated that having an LLD has a negative effect on children’s social discourse performance. Additionally, poor social skills are more fundamentally associated with problem behavior in children with LLD. The implications of this research study suggested that further investigation be done on the processes underlying behavioral risk in children with LLD. Furthermore, assessment and intervention plans should not only focus on the child’s primary learning difficulty, but also address the child’s social needs. Intervention programs that focus on understanding the ways that communication impairments can affect behavior and supporting strategies to structure the language environment to compensate for the child’s communication difficulties could potentially be beneficial. (Vallance, Cummings, & Humphries, 1998).
Parents of 16 children ages 10-14 were interviewed on the subject of their perceptions of the quality of the friendships of their learning disabled children in the third article. The authors stated that there had not been very much research into the quality of friendships of students with learning disabilities in general education classrooms, while there has been quite a lot of research into the number of friends that learning disabled students had when included in general education classrooms. Therefore, the quality of friendships of learning disabled students in general education classrooms was the focus of this study. The children were interviewed to determine whom they viewed as their friends. The parents were concurrently interviewed to glean the same information. 6 weeks later, parents were audio taped describing the friendships of their children. Seven themes became apparent as a result of the parent interviews: discrepancy between parent and child concept of friendship, social immaturity, social skills deficits, compatibility, satisfaction with relationships, barriers and facilitators, and parent’s role. Three important ideas emerged in the conclusion section of this research study. First, researchers have not considered the topic of quality of friendship of learning disabled children. Second, when considering special education placement, it may be important to look at classroom environment to determine if it is conducive to promoting the formation of mutual friendships. Finally, mothers might benefit from sensitization to the need for being engaged with promoting their learning disabled child’s social relationships. (Weiner & Sunohara, 1998).
A fourth article discussed learning to learn cooperatively for learning disabled students. Four questions were considered: can social problem-solving be improved for students with learning problems, will cooperative behavior increase for students with learning problems, will metacognitive strategy instruction in social behavior increase the interaction and socialization skills of “shy” as well as “popular” students, and will the social skills developed in a classroom setting be generalized to other settings. This article was interesting because one of the aspects of treatment included art therapy to improve student’s conversational skills and questioning techniques, as well as their ability to empathize with others. 16 middle school students, ages 14-16, attending a private school for the learning disabled participated in this study. Intervention consisted of a 9-week program focusing on beginning and ending a conversation, understanding teasing, problem solving, conversation and listening skills, perspective-taking skills, predicting consequences, and reviewing all the skills. Group activities were utilized to promote collaboration and cooperation. Videotapes, process sheets, and journals were used to evaluate progress in student’s skills and behavior. Analysis of the data indicated that students advanced in all areas under consideration. A limitation of this study was that the intervention was designed to meet the needs of students in a particular classroom. It would be anticipated that individual students in other classrooms would react differently. The author stated that the intervention could be extended to include additional opportunities for reinforcement of behaviors and transfer of skills. (Gut, 2000).
Parent, student, and teacher perceptions of adolescents’ learning disabilities were the focus a fifth article. 26 high school students with learning disabilities from two schools, their parents, and teachers participated in this study. All were asked to complete two questionnaires: a Student Skills Survey, which included areas such as vocabulary knowledge, oral expression, reading comprehension, study skills, social skills, and peer relations, and a questionnaire focused on the participant’s views on a range of issues, which included environmental support for the students academic and emotional functioning and current and future impact of the child’s learning disability. The administrator read students the questionnaire, while students read along on the same copy, to ensure that there were no problems with reading, scanning, or attention. Analysis of the data focused on the differences between the three groups. Data revealed that students rated themselves generally higher, and significantly higher in 11 of the 21 areas, than did their parents and teachers. Students rated themselves significantly higher in the areas of study skills, social skills, peer relations, planning and organization, and motivation. The primary interest of this study was the relation between parent and teacher ratings and between parent and adolescent ratings. Data indicated that parent ratings were not discrepant from those of the teachers. Parent ratings were significantly lower, however, across the 21 skill areas when compared to the ratings of the adolescents. The findings suggested that the parents of learning disabled adolescents had more negative perceptions of the child’s abilities than did the adolescents themselves. Additionally, parents appeared to know their child’s strengths and weaknesses and the adolescents tended to overrate their academic skills in relation to their teachers and parents estimates. One limitation of the study was that the adolescent participants were from two very different schools. One group attended a private school for the learning disabled, while the other group attended a pubic high school. (Stone, 1997).
A sixth article concentrated on learning disabled girls and social skills. 51 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 participated in the study. A Child Behavior Checklist was used to compare these girls to a sample group of 250 girls who were not identified as having a handicap. The checklist assessed three domains: activity, social, and school. Results indicated that there were significant differences between the two groups. The learning disabled groups’ competence was lower across all three domains. Additionally, the learning disabled girls showed significant problem behavior elevations when compared with the control group. Conclusions addressed the problem of poor social competence for both boys and girls with learning disabilities. Furthermore, differences between behaviors in boys and girls with learning disabilities resulting from poor social competence were suggested. The authors of this article concluded that girls should not be studied in groups with boys. Girls should be studied separately because of the differences in behaviors; girls experiencing poor social competence have feelings that are expressed through somatic complaints and immature behavior. Boys, conversely, express their feelings through differing sets of behaviors. Concisely, gender differences should be considered as a factor for future research. (Ritter, 1997).
Social skills instruction taught by peers was the subject of a seventh article reporting research data. 17 students with learning disabilities participated in this study. They were from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and all were reported to be of equivalent academic performance and social skill development. Intervention consisted of training in three social skills: giving positive feedback, contributing to discussion, and accepting negative feedback. Special education teachers taught learning disabled students these skills. Five students that were taught these skills were selected randomly, and they then instructed five other students with learning disabilities. The instrument used was teacher observations. Students were asked to perform skills by role-playing. They were then rated on how well they performed the skill. Conclusions indicated that students improved on all of the three social skills, however, less improvement was shown in the area of accepting negative feedback. The authors of this study wrote that findings indicated that social skills instruction taught by peers might be as effectual and even more efficient than when instructed exclusively by teachers. (Prater, Serna, & Nakamura, 1999).
An eighth article examined learning disabled students and other low achieving and higher achieving students in three areas: sociometric status, behavior as rated by teachers, and self-ratings of social competence. 24 elementary students with and without learning disabilities participated in this study. The instruments used to collect data were: measures of social status, a series of questionnaires, and teacher rating scales. Reported results indicated that students with learning disabilities were less accepted by their peers, had smaller numbers of friends, and were perceived to have more negative behaviors. Furthermore, students with learning disabilities may be at higher risk socially than their low achieving and higher achieving peers. An interesting finding of the study pointed out that given two students achieving at the same academic level, the student with behavior or social problems would be the one referred for learning disability services. Limitations of the study were the small number of participants and the rural setting. (Bursuck, 1997).
The ninth article looked at the perceptions of emotions and social skills of 60 adolescents ages 13-15, 30 with learning disabilities and 30 without learning disabilities. Video recordings of a male actor expressing six emotions (fear, happiness, anger, disgust, surprise, and sadness) randomly were shown to participants. There were 3 instruments used to collect data: a test of perception of emotions, a social skills self-report questionnaire for students, and social-skills questionnaire for teachers. One of the results of the Identification of Emotions Test indicated that students with learning disabilities did not use their combined auditory-visual mode as well as students without learning disabilities. Results of the social-skills questionnaire revealed that teachers rated students with learning disabilities significantly lower in every measure of social skill and behavior when compared to students without learning disabilities. The relationship between emotion perception and social function was discussed. Several explanations of possible cause for social skill deficits in students with learning disabilities were given. It was suggested that learning disabled students had difficulty in the areas of attention and processing that impeded them in the understanding of nonverbal emotional cues. The authors of this article wrote that students with learning disabilities should be trained to be aware of facial expressions and tone of voice in order to develop their ability to understand the emotional components of social interaction as emotional content makes up 80% of communication messages. (Most & Greenbank, 2000).
The final article discussed preschool children at risk for developing learning disabilities in three areas: phonological awareness, peer nominations, and social competence. 98 5-6 year old children, 39 at risk for developing learning disabilities and 59 of their nondisabled peers, participated in this study. Tests were given to assess phonological awareness. Questionnaires were given to measure loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Peer assessments were administered to determine peer nomination and reciprocal friendship. Resulting data indicated that the at-risk children scored lower on phonological awareness measures when compared to their nondisabled peers. The at-risk children also viewed themselves as lonelier than their nondisabled peers. Furthermore, the at-risk children were generally less accepted by their peers. The authors of this article recommended that phonological awareness and the social-emotional aspects of children at risk for developing learning disabilities be studied further. (Most, Al-Yagon, Tur-Kaspa, & Margalit, 2000).
Weiner, J., & Harris, P.J. (1997). Evaluation of an individualized, context-based social
skills training program for children with learning disabilities. Learning
Disabilities Research and Practice, 12, 40-53.
Vallance, D., Cummings, R., & Humphries, T. (1998). Mediators of the risk for problem
behavior in children with language learning disabilities. Journal of Learning
Disabilities, 31, 160-71.
Weiner, J., & Sunohara, G. (1998). Parents’ perceptions of the quality of friendship of
their children with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and
Practice, 13, 242-57.
Gut, D. (2000). We are all social beings: learning how to learn cooperatively. Teaching
Exceptional Children, 32, 46-53.
Stone, C. (1997). Correspondences among parent, teacher, and student perceptions of
adolescents’ learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 660-69.
Ritter, D. (1997). Social competence and problem solving behavior of adolescent girls
with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 455-461.
Prater, M., Serna, L., & Nakamura, K. (1999). Impact of peer teaching on the acquisition
of social skills by adolescents with learning disabilities. Education and
Treatment of Children, 22, 19-36.
Bursuck, W. (1997). A comparison of students with learning disabilities to low
achieving and higher achieving students on three dimensions of social
competence. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 188-194.
Most, T., & Greenbank, A. (2000). Auditory, visual, auditory-visual perception of
emotions by adolescents with and without learning disabilities, and their
relationship to social skills. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 15, 171
Most, T., Al-Yagon, M., Tur-Kaspa, H., & Margalit, M. (2000). Phonological awareness,
peer nominations, and social competence among preschool children at risk for
developing learning disabilities. International Journal of Disability, Development
and Education, 47, 89-105.