Acceptability and Feasibility of Classroom-Based Social Interaction Interventions for Young Children with Disabilities

By Odom, Samuel L.; McConnell, Scott R. et al. | Exceptional Children, December-January 1993 | Go to article overview

Acceptability and Feasibility of Classroom-Based Social Interaction Interventions for Young Children with Disabilities


Odom, Samuel L., McConnell, Scott R., Chandler, Lynette K., Exceptional Children


Learning to interact positively with one's peers is an important skill that children usually acquire during the preschool years (Howes, 1988). For young children with disabilities, however, development of peer social interaction skills is often delayed (Guralnick & Weinhouse, 1984). Researchers have proposed that the development of social competence, especially with peers, become a major focus of early intervenfon programs for children with disabilities (Guralnick, 1990; Odom, McConnell, & McEvoy, 1992; Strain, 1990).

Different types of intervention approaches have been developed to promote the acquisition of social interaction skills (McEvoy, Odom, & McConnell, 1992). These interventions might be grouped broadly into three different types. In "environmental arrangement" interventions, teachers arrange features of the classroom environment to foster interaction among peers. Such arrangements might include restricting the area of the classroom in which play activities occur (Brown, Fox, & Brady, 1987), providing play activities that promote social interaction (DeKlyen & Odom, 1989), and providing a socially competent peer group (Guralnick & Groom, 1988; Jenkins, Odom, & Speltz, 1989).

In "child specific" interventions, teachers provide instruction or training directly to children on skills that they may use in social interactions with peers. Teaching social or toy play initiations (Haring & Lovinger, 1989; McConnell, Sisson, Cort, & Strain, 1991), coaching the use of skills in interactions (Ladd, 1981; Oden & Asher, 1977), or promoting social problem-solving skills (Strayhome & Strain, 1986; Vaughn, Ridley,& Cox, 1984) are all examples of a child's pecific interventions. In addition, strategies of this intervention include teachers' prompting children for engaging in social interaction with peers and reinforcing those interactions (Fox, Shores, Lindeman, & Strain, 1986: Odom & Strain, 1986; Strain & Timre, 1974).

Socially competent peers, rather than the teacher, serve as the direct intervention agents in "peer-mediated" interventions. In this group of intervention techniques, teachers provide instruction to peers on ways to initiate interactions with children with disabilities (Strain & Odom, 1986; Strain, Shores, & Timm, 1977), prompt or reinforce peers' initiations (Goldstein, Kaczmarek, Pennington, & Shafer, 1992; Odom, Hoyson, Jamieson, & Strain, 1985), introduce group contingencies or self-management strategies for supporting peers' initiations (Kohler, Strain, Maretsky, & DeCesare, 1990; Odom & Watts, 199 l; Sainato, Goldstein, & Strain, 1992), and fade teacher prompts (Odom, Chandler, Ostrosky, McConnell, & Reany, 1992). Also, affection training or group socialization activities have been used to teach peers to be affectionate with the children with disabilities (Brown, Ragland, & Fox, 1988; McEvoy et al., 1988).

Most of these interventions have produced positive effects for young children with disabilities (Odom & Brown, 1993). This literature could serve as a basis for developing approaches that teachers could use in classroom-based interventions. However, efficacy may not be the sole factor that determines teachers' use of instructional or intervention approaches (Witt, Elliott, & Martens, 1984). Teachers' perceptions of acceptability may also have a major impact on the likelihood that a teacher would actually use the intervention (Hall & Didier, 1987; Reimers, Wacker, & Koeppl, 1987).

Acceptability refers to "the judgments of lay persons, clients, and others of whether treatment procedures are appropriate, fair, and masonable for the problem or client" (Kazdin, 1981, p. 483). Most research on the acceptability of classroombased intervention strategies has focused on behavioral interventions for treating children's mild to severe behavior problems (Gullone & King, 1989). …

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