The effects of social skills training on peer interactions among elementary-age children with hearing impairment

Christy L. Monaghan

Abstract

The present study investigated the effectiveness of a social skills training intervention in modifying social behavior among elementary-age children with hearing impairment. The intervention was adapted from standardized social skills training packages based on social learning theory (i.e., utilizing instructions, modeling, behavioral rehearsal, and feedback) and was modified by the primary researcher to address the unique communication, social, and cultural needs of children with hearing impairment. The study was conducted within a modified multiple baseline design across behaviors with 5 elementary-age residential students with hearing impairment at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. The goal of the intervention was to increase the frequency of positive social behaviors (social initiation and sharing behavior) and to decrease the frequency of interfering problem behaviors (negative interactions) that can compete with and therefore block the acquisition and the performance of positive social behaviors. Blind ratings by two independent observers proficient in sign language assessed the frequency of occurrence of three target skills (i.e. social initiation, sharing behavior, and negative interaction) for each participant throughout the baseline, intervention, post-intervention, and follow-up phases of the study. Ratings were made from videotaped observations of free play interactions with familiar peers in a familiar environmental setting after each intervention session. Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) total scores were obtained pre-intervention and post-intervention by staff members familiar with the participants in order to assess pre- to post-intervention differences in perceived social behaviors as a result of the intervention. Follow-up data were collected 6 weeks after the completion of the intervention. Interobserver reliability and treatment integrity were assessed. The data were displayed in figures for each participant and visually inspected. Based on reductions in mean percentages of intervals, there were no meaningful overall increases in social initiation as a result of the intervention. The intervention was generally effective in increasing sharing behavior for each of the five participants. The intervention was effective in decreasing negative interactions for 3 of the 5 participants, with marginal reductions in negative interaction for 1 participant. However, increases in sharing behavior and decreases in negative interaction obtained during treatment were not consistently maintained over time (i.e., at follow-up). Dormitory staff ratings of the SSRS indicated considerable increases in the overall domain of Social Skills for 4 of the 5 participants and decreased in Problem Behaviors for each participant. Findings are discussed in terms of research limitations and implications for future research.