Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Effective Strategies for Preschool Peer Group Entry: Considered Applications for Children with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Effective Strategies for Preschool Peer Group Entry: Considered Applications for Children with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Young children with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) show delays in both play and social development (Crocker & Orr, 1996; Hughes, Dote-Kwan, & Dolendo, 1998; Sacks, Kekelis, & Gaylord-Ross, 1992; Preisler & Palmer, 1989; Sacks & Wolffe, 1999, 2006; Troster & Brambring, 1994; Warren, 1984). Although such skills develop incidentally in most children, those with visual impairments must be intentionally supported in navigating relational skills. Educators need access to evidence-based practices that lay the foundation for social skills in young children with visual impairments. Sacks and Wolffe (1999) have provided the field of visual impairment with excellent resources describing strategies for development of such skills in individuals of all ages. In this article, I will focus on just one facet of preschool social development--specifically, peer group entry.

Most experts within the field of early childhood agree that social play-based interactions are a crucial vehicle for child development (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, & Eyer, 2003). They provide a catalyst to the development of true friendship while allowing children to encounter new experiences that challenge and develop understanding. Sacks and Wolffe (2006) stated that, "[t]hrough peer interaction, children learn to gain entry into groups, attract and direct the attention of others, resolve conflict, and engage in play" (p. 333). For these reasons, social competence is an integral part of most typical preschool classrooms. Yet during free play opportunities in inclusive preschool settings, children with visual impairments tend to play in one area and engage in solitary play (Celeste, 2006; Celeste & Grum, 2010; Erwin, 1993; Hoben & Lindstrom, 1980; Rettig, 1994; Schneekloth, 1989; Troster & Brambring, 1994). Even when near other children, those with visual impairments rarely engage others.

Social skills development is a complex issue with a variety of aspects to be studied. One key component is successful negotiation of entry into a social play situation. Entry is challenging for most young children. In fact, in a study of group entry habits, Dodge and Schlundt (1983) reported that only 57% of all bids for entry were actually accepted. This finding suggests that even those who are considered to be socially competent face rejection on a regular basis. And when considering specifically the population of children with visual impairments, Crocker and Orr (1996) noted that children with visual impairments were rarely successful at engaging peers. The purpose of this literary review is to answer the question: What strategies lead to successful entry into social play situations for preschool-aged children within the general population? That knowledge will then be considered in light of possible application to preschool-aged children with visual impairments.

Methods

Both the ERIC and Journal Storage (JSTOR) electronic databases were used to search for studies that would provide information on successful entry into social play situations. Criteria for this search included articles in which studies were specific to entry bids of young children in typical school settings.

The search was divided into three subsections. First, studies were sought that would identify behaviors employed by children to gain entry. Second, because communication is basic to most entry bids, studies were sought that focused on the role of communication in social entry. Finally, a search was conducted for studies that would address environmental factors that influence entry bids.

An extensive list of research articles was gathered. Only those studies that met the following criteria were used in this literary review:

1. The study must focus on peer group entry. Studies that moved beyond entry bids to focus on play behaviors or skills for sustained play were not considered for this review. …

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