The Effects of Social Skills Training on the Peer Interactions of a Nonnative Toddler

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to increase peer interactions of a toddler who is nonnative. A 30-month old boy evidenced social withdrawal when playing at playgrounds. Social skills training served as the intervention to increase social initiations by this participant. Targeted social skills included greeting peers, gesturing to peers, imitating peers, offering something to peers, and accepting something from peers. The training included instructions, models, and praise. A multiple baseline across skills design was applied in this study. Results demonstrated that the participant's social interactions with peers increased when the social skills training intervention was introduced across each of the five social skills and was maintained as the instructions, models, and praise was gradually decreased. These findings indicate that this type of social skills training can be an effective way to increase the appropriate peer interactions of a nonnative toddler.

The development of social competence is considered to be one of the milestones for toddlers. Some investigators of children's social development have suggested that the first three years of life are critical in the evolution of social abilities (Mueller & Vandell, 1979; White, 1975). The capacity to collaborate with others represents a rudimentary component of socially competent behavior (Ciairano, Visu-Petra, & Settanni, 2007; LaFreniere, 1996). Social competence is apparently intertwined with school readiness and academic success (Blair, 2002; Hecke et al., 2007; Raver, 2002). Children with social competence are in a good position for developing positive attitudes, adjusting to school, getting better grades, and achieving more (Ladd, Birch, & Buhs, 1999; Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1996).

Toddler social skills incorporate prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior for the toddler includes joining other children in play (both initiating ideas and responding to others' ideas for play), following rules and turn taking in games, sharing toys, evidence of understanding others' feelings, empathy, and helpfulness (Hay, 1994; Hogan, Scott, & Bauer, 1992). From the perspective of social learning theory, the more positive experiences with playmates toddlers have, the more familiar and comfortable they will be with engaging in social interactions. Toddlers who do not achieve social competence may have ongoing difficulties if an effective intervention is not applied. Behavior problems during toddlerhood may persist through preschool, and preschoolers with behavior problems may continue to evidence them in grade school (Houck, 1999).

Social skills will facilitate children's interactions in natural social settings (Laushey & Heflin, 2000). Therefore, it is necessary for children to have some exposure to typical social skills. However, simply placing children who lack social interaction with peers in natural settings may not be sufficient for them to develop positive social skills (Laushey & Heflin, 2000). Without providing guidance some children will not develop social skills and will remain isolated even though they are within a rich social environment. To avoid such an outcome, two studies (Haper, Symon, & Frea, 2008; Pierce & Schreibman, 1997) have provided social skills training to teach the children how to initiate and engage in social interactions with their peers.

Once children establish social skills, they are able to generate, sustain, or enhance positive effects within peer relationships (Gresham, 1981). Social skills development will demonstrate an interrelated formation of knowledge and learning abilities in the field of communication (Bakx, Van Der Sanden, & Vermetten, 2006). As a result, it is vital for children to be taught the social skills related to social initiation to develop successful social friendships (Erwin, Kathryn, & Purves, 2004; Liber, Frea, & Symon, 2008). …