How to Infuse Social Skills Training into Literacy Instruction
Forgan, James W., Gonzalez-DeHass, Alyssa, Teaching Exceptional Children
Instruction and Effectiveness
Teachers like Lafond recognize the importance of social skills instruction and its effectiveness on improving the skills and self-concepts of students with high-incidence disabilities such as specific learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and mild mental retardation. The classroom teacher or school counselor typically delivers social skills instruction to students as part of the school curriculum, and these schoolbased interventions enhance the selfconcepts of students with disabilities. Elbaum and Vaughn (1999) found that social skills interventions using techniques such as self-enhancement (e.g., social problem-solving), combined with skill-development approaches, led to the greatest gains in the self-concepts of students with learning disabilities. This finding is encouraging, considering that students' gains in self-concept occurred from teacher-led interventions that typically lasted less than 12 weeks with lessons occurring two or three times per week.
Although educators and researchers have debated the effectiveness of social skills instruction, most people agree that social skills instruction is effective in promoting the acquisition, performance, and generalization of prosocial behaviors (Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001; Mclntosh, Vaughn, & Zaragoza., 1991). In a recent meta-analysis on the effectiveness of social skills intervention outcomes, Gresham and colleagues reported that six previous meta-analyses on social skills interventions found small to large gains in the overall effect sizes that ranged from .20 to .87 in studies designed to increase students' social skills. By analyzing effect sizes, researchers can compare the results of different research studies in a systematic way. According to Bear, Minke, and Manning (2002), "An effect size reflects the strength or magnitude of a relationship or the impact of an intervention" (p. 2).
Forness and Kavale (1996) provide insight into potential barriers of effective social skill interventions: lack of sustained training, measurement and research design issues, ineffective training packages, lack of coordination of social skills training with academic instruction, and the possibility that social skills deficits are highly resistant to intervention. Therefore, future social skills training programs must do their best to address these critical areas of effective social skills training: integration of social skills training with academic instruction, more sustained social skills training, cooperative learning, prosocial modeling, and opportunities for practice of social skills (Anderson, 2000; Carter & Sugai, 1989; Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001; Forness & Kavale; Korinek & Popp, 1997; Sugai & Lewis, 1996).
Although research tends to support the effectiveness of social skills instruction and teachers recognize the value of social skills training for students, teachers often report that allocating time to teach social skills is problematic. Many teachers feel pressure to prioritize academic achievement over students' social success given today's environment of high-stakes testing and often feel time for teaching social skills is limited (Cartledge & Kiarie, 2001). One way to overcome this dilemma is to infuse social skills instruction into the academic curriculum (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995; Sugai & Lewis, 1996) and literacy instruction, in particular (Anderson, 2000; Bauer & Balius, 1995; Cartledge & Kiarie).
If teachers infuse social skills training into the academic curriculum, their students receive more time devoted to social skills training than when these programs are offered as an isolated area of instruction traditionally amounting to a total of 30 hours or less (Forness & Kavale, 1996; Gresham et al., 2001). Additionally, as Korinek and Popp (1997) have pointed out, training that is divorced from meaningful settings may result in a lack of transfer of social skills. …