Development and Testing of a Primary Tier Social Skills Program: Effects for Children with Exceptionalities

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Virginia Tech

School-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS), a tiered prevention model targeted at making educational environments safe and effective, is swiftly gaining popularity in the United States (Brandt, Chitiyo, May, 2012). This model aims to teach prosocial behavior through positively stated rules and expectations; however, there is little research examining social skills instruction using a tiered model (Schoenfield, Rutherford, Gable, Rock, 2008). This is of considerable concern for children with autism spectrum (ASD) and related social disorders as educators attempt to address the social needs of these students within a SWPBS framework (Sansoti, 2010). The current study aimed to begin exploration into the topic of a tiered social skills training framework for children with autism spectrum and related social/behavioral disorders and their typically developing peers by initial implementation and testing of a primary tier social skills program through the use of a mixed model research design. The program was implemented in two classrooms (1 preschool and 1 kindergarten) in southwest Virginia. A mixed-method research study was conducted to determine whether the program leads to improved classroom environment, improved social functioning for children with ASD or social difficulties (n=8), what qualities of children, teachers, and classrooms affect implementation and results, and what additional changes or elements need to be provided to implement the program without the aid of a researcher. While quantitative results failed to yield significant findings, qualitative results partially supported the use of the program. While the initial results were small to insignificant, they point to important considerations for further refinement of the program.

social skills, positive behavior support, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, school