Promoting Maintenance and Generalization through Cognitive Decision Making Training

Article excerpt

This article investigates issues in the areas of work outcomes, self-determination, career decision-making skills, person centered planning, and transitional planning for students with disabilities. In particular, training in cognitive decision-making is suggested for students with mild disabilities. Educators and schools are charged with providing challenging, current, and useful experiences for students, including those with disabilities, so they may become fell members of society. Students with disabilities are often not taught cognitive decision making skills, and many leave high school with very little training in how to make decisions about careers. Little research has been conducted with this population investigating maintenance and generalization practices and student outcomes associated with self-determination, career decision-making, person centered planning, and transition planning. Students with disabilities can benefit from classroom instruction in skills needed for finding and maintaining successful work. Further research is needed to explore the characteristics, inhibitors, and supports that lead to successful outcomes sue to maintenance and generalization of career decision-making skills for students with mild disabilities.

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The challenge for schools and educators is to provide relevant, challenging, and contemporary experiences in school for youth with disabilities, which will help them become lull members of society. One often-neglected strategy to aid these youth to become full participants is to teach them cognitive decision-making skills (Blackorby & Wager, 1996; Destefano & Wagner, 1993; Wehmeyer, 1993). Teaching such skills can promote maintenance and generalization of learned and observed behaviors in a variety of school and community settings. Teachers can incorporate cognitive decision-making training in classroom lessons, including experience relevant to the student social and economic needs (Burdick, Pond & Yamamoto, 1994; Ward, Wehmeyer, Martin & Marshall, 1993). Cognitive decision-making skills are essential for establishing and meeting goals, planning careers, exploring/investigating career choices, making decisions about the future, and establishing objectives and activities.

Building on efforts to increase awareness of cognitive executive decision-making skills for persons with disabilities, Wehmeyer (1993) defines cognitive executive decision-making as developing an improved self-concept, self-esteem and awareness of personal needs, interests, goals, strengths and limitations. Perceptions of personal career goals, including perceived control over outcomes, responsibility, and factors such as one's anxiety about the decision-making process are part of the process. Each of these skills, independently and collectively, can be taught.

Research on maintenance and generalization of career planning for persons with special needs has often been restricted to marginal topics and program conditions (Lichtenstein, 1995; Martin & Marshall, 1995; Miner & Bates, 1997a). Little investigative attention has been given to the decision-making skills, career/vocational development, and the relatively narrow range of career options for students with disabilities in today's labor market.

The purpose of this article is to review relevant research on cognitive decision-making skills and to demonstrate how these skills facilitate the overall development of students with mild disabilities (Wehemeyer, 1993; Dunn & Shumaker, 1997). Efficacy of work outcomes for persons with disabilities, strategies for facilitating self-determination. and development of career decision-making skills, and transition planning will be discussed. Finally, implications for classroom instruction will be reviewed.

Historical Work Outcomes

In the past few years, a number of studies have focused on adult adjustment and work outcomes of students with disabilities. …