Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Generalization of Social Skills through Self-Monitoring by Adults with Mild Mental Retardation

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Generalization of Social Skills through Self-Monitoring by Adults with Mild Mental Retardation

Article excerpt

* Considering current emphasis on normalization, community integration, and vocational education, social skills training for adults with mental retardation is essential (Greenspan & Shoultz, 1981). Karan and Shalock (1983) have identified inadequate social and interpersonal skills as among the most important factors preventing the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of society.

Several investigators have targeted a range of social skills among people with mental retardation. Social skills range from isolated nonverbal responses such as eye contact and gestures (Castles & Glass, 1986) to complex skills involved in asking questions (Hall, Seldom-Wildgen, & Sherman, 1980), expressing appreciation and praise (Stacy, Doleys, & Malcolm, 1979), and carrying on a conversation. Other researchers have included speech components, such as loudness, intonation, and enunciation (Bornstein, Bach, McFall, Friman & Lyons, 1980) and speech intelligibility (Elias-Burger, Danley, Sigelman, & Burger, 1981) in their training programs. The most widely used and successful social skills training package consists of instruction, modeling, rehearsal, feedback, and reinforcement (e.g., Karen, Astin-Smith, & Creasy, 1985; LaGreca, Stone, & Bell, 1983).

Despite success in increasing the frequency of targeted social skills, researchers have often neglected the critical area of generalization and maintenance of treatment gains (Gresham, 1981; Lowther & Martin, 1980; Stokes & Baer, 1977). Most investigators have relied on analogue measures to confirm demonstration of behaviors across people, settings, and responses (Davies & Rogers, 1985; LaGreca & Santogrossi, 1980). Some researchers, however, have suggested that analogue evaluations of social skills do not necessarily correlate highly with skills that are used in "real-life" situations (Kazdin, Matson, & Esveldt-Dawson, 1984). Obviously, generalization and maintenance programming is imperative, because social behaviors that are not exhibited in a variety of settings over time are of limited value.

Some researchers have suggested the use of self-management techniques for promoting generalization and maintenance (Kazdin, 1980; Thoresen & Mahoney, 1974). In their discussion on the technology of generalization, Stokes and Baer (1977) described the possible mediational function of self-management in promoting generalization. Skinner (1973) defined self-management as the application of traditional operant procedures to one's own behavior. Glynn, Thomas, and Shea (1973) conceptualized self-management as a combination of several different components, including self-monitoring, self-assessment, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. Preliminary evidence suggests that self-management procedures are as effective as similar externally managed procedures (or even more effective) in facilitating positive behavior change among people with mental retardation (Cole & Gardner, 1983; Johnston, Whitman, & Johnson, 1980). Despite emphasis on self-management, researchers have not established efficient ways in which these techniques can enhance generalization.

This investigation focuses on the use of self-monitoring to promote generalization of social skills. Self-monitoring refers to the systematic observation and recording of some aspect of one's own behavior. Self-monitoring is considered as essential and extremely important first step in self-management because it provides people with data regarding their own behavior. In addition, self-monitoring is the least complex component on a continuum that includes self-monitoring, self-assessment, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. Another reason for limiting this study to self-monitoring is to investigate its effects separately from other components of self-management, an area neglected in past research with people with mental retardation. …

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