Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Critical Social Skills for Adolescents with High Incidence Disabilities: Parental Perspectives

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Critical Social Skills for Adolescents with High Incidence Disabilities: Parental Perspectives

Article excerpt

Curricula for students with disabilities can be divided into academic and nonacademic areas. Social competence and social skills are considered within the nonacademic areas. Traditionally, the emphasis on social skills has been overshadowed by academics. However, many educators acknowledge the need for an increased emphasis on social skills development to promote greater social competence for students with high-incidence disabilities (Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001; Ogilvy, 1994).

Social skills are often defined as a complex set of skills that include communication, problem-solving and decision making, assertion, peer and group interaction, and self-management (Haager & Vaughn, 1995; Sugai & Lewis, 1996). These skills are "competencies necessary for students to initiate and maintain positive social relationships with peers, teachers, family, and other community members" (Quinn, Jannasch-Pennell, & Rutherford, 1995, p. 27).

During adolescence, prosocial behaviors are being tested and refined based upon positive and negative social encounters students experience daily (Schloss, 1984). There is evidence that during this time of development, social skills' training has a profound impact in positively influencing an adolescent's behavior (Taylor & Larson, 1999). As such, it is appropriate to address social skill development during adolescence. However, current curricula related to social skills reveal little consensus on what content is critical to the success of the student.

There are multiple ways to identify potentially important social skills. One way is to solicit input from the adults in the lives of children. Parents and teachers are two such sources since they are influential in children's lives and are able to provide essential information about their children (Ruffalo & Elliott, 1997). Because parents observe children's social behavior in a variety of settings and situations, they can provide valuable information in reference to children's social skills (Ruffalo & Elliott). However, a review of existing literature reveals that although teachers' and students' perceptions are examined in various studies (Baumgart, Filler, & Askvig, 1991; Pray, Hall, & Markley, 1992; Sugai & Lewis, 1996), few studies have sought the direct input of parents in identifying critical social skills that should be included in school curriculum and programs (Haager & Vaughn, 1995). This is unfortunate because parents are essential participants in the educational success of their children (Pryor, 1995).

Research has also stressed the importance of parental participation in enhancing the acquisition, generalization, and maintenance of social skills (Haager & Vaughn, 1995; Schloss, 1984; Sugai & Lewis, 1996), and in planning social skills training for students (Schloss). However, the focus is usually on parents providing support to the designated program, not necessarily on the identification of skills or the development of programs that target specific social skills. There is a clear distinction between merely involving parents in the implementation of social skills training and direct parent participation in the origin and follow-up of the program.

Parental inclusion in all aspects of social skill programming may result in the identification of different skills or skill levels than those skills found in teacher-created programs. Teachers are concerned about appropriate classroom behavior and traditionally place greater emphasis in targeting prosocial skills that specifically address appropriate social behaviors needed in the classroom setting (Schloss, 1984). However, appropriate classroom behaviors are only a small reflection of the social skills needed to be socially competent. Thus, parental participation in the process of essential skill identification is an important consideration. This participation is not restricted to parents of a certain age group or level in school. …

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