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Enhancing the utilization and generalization of positive social skills in students who demonstrate serious emotional disturbance

Richard James Cowan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A defining characteristic of children with SED is their inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with adults and peers. Mainstreaming children with SED has made it necessary for educators to implement social skills training and/or behavioral modification procedures to help children with SED acclimate to the demands of school. Although there are a number of studies investigating the efficacy of established social skills curricula for children with SED, most have resulted in low to moderate efficacy, with limited outcomes regarding generalization. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a multi-component social skills training program, including skills training and generalization components, for enhancing the social skills of inclusion students either demonstrating SED or at-risk due to social behavior deficits. Whereas the multi-component intervention included classwide direct social skills instruction to address potential skill deficits, the primary emphasis of programming was the generalization components (i.e., verbal praise, in vivo coaching, self-monitoring, and the use of multiple exemplars in training) designed to enhance the social behavior of four child participants across three criterion settings (i.e., the lunchroom, playground, and specials classroom). A 10-week social skills training program was implemented and outcomes were measured via direct behavioral observations in the target settings and supplementary behavioral checklists. Treatment integrity, teacher and child ratings of acceptability and efficacy, and additional social validity indices were also measured. Overall, data indicate inconsistent performance both within participants (i.e., participants demonstrated gains in some settings, and not in others) and across participants (i.e., participants were differentially responsive to treatment). In addition, data were highly variable within and across phases. These data confirm that there are unique characteristics about individuals and settings that may impact overall behavioral success across individuals and settings. The key to helping individuals with special needs regarding social functioning may be to more thoroughly assess the complexities of each individual and each environment, allowing treatment to follow from a “goodness-of-fit” analysis. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Education, Early Childhood|Education, Educational Psychology

Recommended Citation

Cowan, Richard James, "Enhancing the utilization and generalization of positive social skills in students who demonstrate serious emotional disturbance" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3098167.