Abstract: This study evaluated the effectiveness of a social skills intervention plan for a preschool child who is blind and has no additional disabilities. After the plan was implemented, the child demonstrated an increased frequency and range of play behaviors and social interactions.
Guralnick (1990, p. 282) defined peer-related social competence as the "ability of young children to carry out their interpersonal goals" (for example, gaining entry to play, resolving conflicts, and maintaining play). Children with disabilities often lack the skills that are necessary to establish and engage in positive social relationships (Guralnick, Connor, Hammond, Gottman, & Kinnish, 1996b; McConnell & Odom, 1999; Odom, Zercher, Li, Marquart, & Sandall, 1998). They typically receive fewer positive responses to their social bids, demonstrate less interest in their peers over time, and are more prone to social isolation (Brown & Gordon, 1987). In addition, children with disabilities are rarely sought out as resources by their peers, infrequently serve as role models for other children and are the least preferred play partners of typical children (Guralnick & Groom, 1987).
Review of the literature
The play behaviors of children who are visually impaired have been found to be predominantly exploratory, with more time spent in solitary play (or interacting with adults) than those of sighted children (Skellenger & Hill, 1994; Troster & Brambring, 1993, 1994). These children also engage less frequently in manipulative play or use toys functionally and demonstrate more stereotypic behavior (such as rocking or eye poking) during play (Rettig, 1994; Skellenger & Hill, 1994; Troster & Brambring, 1994), have difficulty initiating and sustaining interactions with their peers (Celeste, 2006), and require adults' facilitation in inclusive play settings to make play meaningful for them (Rettig, 1994; Skellenger & Hill, 1994).
Simply including children with visual impairments in typical settings is not enough to ensure their full membership in classroom or child care communities. Celeste (2006) found that even in "high-quality" environments, with supportive professionals present, children must possess a repertoire of social skills to gain entry into existing dyads and triads and to sustain interactions, so as to be socially independent. She concluded that social competence must be a priority for children who are visually impaired, even those who appear to be developing typically. Social intervention strategies must be introduced in the early preschool years as soon as new classes begin because the literature has reported that as children become more acquainted with one another, they require increasingly sophisticated "entry skills" to gain admittance to and sustain interactions with their peers (Coplan, Gavinski-Molina, Lagace-Seguin, & Wichmann, 2001; Coplan & Rubin, 1998; Coplan, Rubin, Fox, Calkins, & Stewart, 1994; Guralnick, Hammond, & Connor, 2003). It is critical for children who are visually impaired to be taught the social skills that they need to interact effectively with their sighted peers and for professionals to monitor carefully the children's ability to implement these skills successfully. Professionals must identify strategies related to social skills that work, provide consistent support, and follow children longitudinally, since research has indicated that short-term solutions are rarely effective (Sacks, Kekelis, & Gaylord-Ross, 2001).
SOCIAL IMPACT OF INCLUSION
One aim of inclusion is to provide children with disabilities access to social opportunities in regular education classrooms with their nondisabled peers. Several studies, however, have found that children with disabilities experienced a higher proportion of negative social interactions and engaged in more restricted social networks of peers when in mainstream schools than in special settings (Guralnick, 1994; Sacks et al. …