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Developing social competence in the inclusive primary classroom: the ability to promote social competence in inclusive settings is a critical teacher competency for a developmentally appropriately early childhood program.



Educators and researchers alike offer ample evidence supporting the importance of social competence for a productive, successful life. The noted theorist the·o·rist  
n.
One who theorizes; a theoretician.


theorist
a person who forms theories or who specializes in the theory of a particular subject.
See also: Ideas, Learning

Noun 1.
 Lev Vygotsky Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (Russian: Лев Семёнович Выготский) (November 17 (November 5 Old Style), 1896 – June 11, 1934) was a Soviet developmental  (1978) stressed the importance of social interactions for overall cognitive development, and viewed learning as a social process. In the last decade, studies have linked social skills to resiliency (Benard, 1991; Taylor, 1991), academic performance (e.g., Cartledge & Milburn, 1995; Masten & Coatworth, 1998; Pelligrini & Glickman, 1991; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994), and job success (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1991; Hagner, Rogan, & Murphy, 1992). Conversely, social skill deficits in children have been linked to delinquency, school dropout (1) On magnetic media, a bit that has lost its strength due to a surface defect or recording malfunction. If the bit is in an audio or video file, it might be detected by the error correction circuitry and either corrected or not, but if not, it is often not noticed by the human , and substance abuse in adolescence (Greene et al., 1999; Parker & Asher, 1987), and are considered the single best predictor of mental health problems in adulthood (Cowen, Pederson, Babigian, Izzo, & Trost, 1973; Strain & Odom, 1986).

At all grade levels, social participation skills are legitimate and valued components of the social studies curriculum; in inclusive settings, they need particular attention. The current emphasis on inclusive classrooms presupposes all learners' abilities to demonstrate basic and appropriate social skills. Therefore, the ability to promote social competence in inclusive settings is a critical teacher competency COMPETENCY, evidence. The legal fitness or ability of a witness to be heard on the trial of a cause. This term is also applied to written or other evidence which may be legally given on such trial, as, depositions, letters, account-books, and the like.
     2.
 for a developmentally appropriate early childhood program (Garrett & Kelley, 2000).

The purpose of this article is to help early elementary educators understand and promote social interactions and social competence in inclusive settings, specifically those that include students with learning disabilities (LD) and mild to moderate levels of mental retardation mental retardation, below average level of intellectual functioning, usually defined by an IQ of below 70 to 75, combined with limitations in the skills necessary for daily living.  (MR). The terms "early elementary" and "primary" are used interchangeably to refer to children ages 6 through 8 (1st to 3rd grade, for most students) (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

The 6-8 age span is considered a critical period for social development (Dodge, Jablon, & Bickart, 1994; Flavell, 1977). In addition to experiencing a "cognitive shift A cognitive shift (not to be confused with cognitive-shifting, a general therapy/meditation term) is a psychological phenomenon most often experienced by individuals using psychedelic drugs, or suffering from mental disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (also known as " (see Bredekamp & Copple, 1997), children in this age period are motivated to learn social skills because they want to "fit in" at school and are forming their first friendships. Furthermore, negative behavior patterns have not yet become entrenched en·trench   also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es

v.tr.
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.

2.
. As children adjust to the demands of the social environment in an academic context (school), peer relationships assume greater importance and they follow the behavior models of adults and peers around them (Bandura ban`dur´a   

n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings.
, 1977; Vygotsky, 1978, 1986). According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 Erikson's psychosocial psychosocial /psy·cho·so·cial/ (si?ko-so´shul) pertaining to or involving both psychic and social aspects.

psy·cho·so·cial
adj.
Involving aspects of both social and psychological behavior.
 theory (1963), children at this age want to pursue goals and feel a sense of accomplishment. To prevent feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, they must feel successful and have their ideas and accomplishments recognized. Erikson theorized that if children's potential abilities are not evoked and nurtured during the elementary school elementary school: see school.  age years, their development might, at best, be delayed.

Developing social competence is particularly critical for students with learning and behavior problems, as well as for many normally achieving children whose interpersonal skills "Interpersonal skills" refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interactions in order to reach certain effects or results. The term "interpersonal skills" is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability  have suffered from various other risk factors. In a meta-analysis of social skills literature, Kavale and Forness (1996) reported that approximately 75 percent of students with learning disabilities manifested social skills deficits. By definition, children with mental retardation are much more likely to experience problems in socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.

so·cial·i·za·tion
n.
 and communication than their nondisabled peers (American Association American Association refers to one of the following professional baseball leagues:
  • American Association (19th century), active from 1882 to 1891.
  • American Association (20th century), active from 1902 to 1962 and 1969 to 1997.
 on Mental Retardation, 1992).

Social Outcomes of Inclusion

Including students with mild and moderate disabilities in general education classes is now standard education policy in school districts across the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . It was federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
This article or section is currently being developed or reviewed.
Some statements may be disputed, incorrect, , biased or otherwise objectionable.
 (IDEA), and its predecessors as far back as 1975 (e.g., the Education for All Handicapped Children Act The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (sometimes referred to using the acronyms EAHCA or EHA, or Public Law (PL) 94-142) was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. , 1975,1986). Inclusion has achieved greater acceptance, and with each revision of the IDEA (1991, 1997) the "least restrictive environment As part of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the least restrictive environment is identified as one of the six principles that govern the education of students with disabilities. " clause has been more liberally interpreted.

Proponents of inclusion have long maintained that one of the central benefits of inclusion for all students is the social integration of children with disabilities (Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989). Studies examining social outcomes in inclusive classrooms, however, have varying results. A considerable body of research points to unfavorable outcomes for students with disabilities. Wigle and DeMoulin (1999), for example, found that self-concept in kindergarten to 3rd-grade students with LD and MR was negatively correlated with the amount of time spent in general education classrooms, especially among boys. Other studies have found that students with disabilities were less liked by their peers, were more frequently rejected (Stone & LaGreca, 1990; Vaughn, Elbaum, & Schumm, 1996), had fewer friends than nondisabled students (Guralnick, Gottman, & Hammond, 1995; Guralnick & Groom, 1988; Margalit, 1994), and were socially isolated in mainstreamed classrooms (Faught, Balleweg, Crow, & van den Poi, 1983; Peterson, 1982).

Another body of research points to the favorable social outcomes of inclusion (Buysse & Bailey, 1993). For example, Heiman and Margalit (1998) found that placing upper elementary children with mild mental retardation in inclusive classrooms seemed to decrease their loneliness and depression, and helped them improve their social skills. Benefits of inclusive settings for nondisabled students also have been established, such as increases in nondisabled students' self-worth, understanding of others' feelings, and acceptance of others who are different (Snell Snell , George 1903-1996.

American geneticist. He shared a 1980 Nobel Prize for discoveries concerning cell structure that enhanced understanding of the immunological system, resulting in higher success rates in organ transplantation.
 & Brown, 2000; Staub & Peck, 1994 / 1995). Teachers and parents of both general and special education students in inclusive classrooms report similar perceptions (Lieber et al., 1998; Peck, Carlson, & Helmstetter, 1992; Tichenor, Heins, & Piechura-Couture, 2000).

Peer interactions have been found to be more frequent in inclusive settings than in self-contained special education settings (Guralnik et al., 1995). Research clearly indicates, however, that the quality of these interactions is not always positive and that some, if not most, children with disabilities do experience social isolation in inclusive settings. Regrettably, when children with and without disabilities are together in a self-contained classroom, the general education students can be less tolerant of the lower levels of skill development displayed by differently abled abled
Adjective

having a range of physical powers as specified: less abled, differently abled 
 peers. Conversely, children with special needs may fail to grasp social concepts because of ridicule from their nondisabled peers, thus creating a "Catch-22" situation.

It appears, then, that teaching socially competent peers to initiate prosocial interactions is an important factor in inclusion classrooms. One recent study compared the effects of three different intervention approaches on social competence for preschoolers with disabilities; the greatest and most sustained effect was found when typically developing peers were taught to initiate positive interactions with the children who had disabilities (Odom et al., 1999). These findings are congruent con·gru·ent  
adj.
1. Corresponding; congruous.

2. Mathematics
a. Coinciding exactly when superimposed: congruent triangles.

b.
 with Vygotsky's (1986) research supporting student interactions with classmates Classmates can refer to either:
  • Classmates.com, a social networking website.
  • Classmates (film), a 2006 Malayalam blockbuster directed by Lal Jose, starring Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Indragith, Sunil, Jagathy, Kavya Madhavan, Balachandra Menon, ...
 in roles as social learners.

In inclusive early childhood classrooms, young children who are not disabled may not immediately recognize those differences that make the child with disabilities unique, particularly when the disabilities are cognitive in nature. However, maturation maturation /mat·u·ra·tion/ (mach-u-ra´shun)
1. the process of becoming mature.

2. attainment of emotional and intellectual maturity.

3.
, combined with ongoing social experiences in the classroom, eventually will enable most children to distinguish differences between children who are not disabled and those who are. As they grow older, even children with disabilities will begin to see the differences. As a result, older children with disabilities may view themselves as less competent in both academic and social areas (Tapasak & Walther-Thomas, 1999). Since most of these experiences occur in school settings, the classroom teacher becomes a primary force in determining how children in inclusive settings view themselves and their peer relationships (Lieber et al., 1998).

Teachers' Attitudes

Most children readily perceive teachers' negative or uneasy feelings about differences, whether of language, skin color, cultural mannerisms, or disabilities (Manning, 2000). A teacher's acceptance level of children with disabilities in the class will very likely affect the views of those children who are not disabled. First and foremost in developing children's social competence is the classroom teacher's unconditional acceptance of all the children in the class.

Teachers can model respectful interactions by their actions, words, nonverbal non·ver·bal  
adj.
1. Being other than verbal; not involving words: nonverbal communication.

2. Involving little use of language: a nonverbal intelligence test.
 gestures, and tone of voice. Such modeling requires teachers to honestly examine their own feelings about having children with special needs in the class. Feeling unprepared to deal with a child's particular disability may result in teacher anxiety or resentment. One way of alleviating such feelings is to learn more about specific disabilities represented in the classroom from a variety of sources, such as parents, reference books, or the children themselves.

Possessing an understanding of culturally influenced behaviors helps teachers distinguish between their students' differences and deficiencies in social skills. Children from diverse backgrounds may exhibit culturally based behaviors that might be misinterpreted by mainstream peers and adults. These peers and adults may, in turn, view students exhibiting such behaviors as functioning inappropriately or unsuccessfully within the school environment (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995; Rivera & Rogers-Adkinson, 1997).

Good teachers realize that the individual differences, such as ability and personality, that make every child unique exist across cultures and disabilities (Manning, 2000; Okagaki & Diamond, 2000). The teacher's understanding and appreciation of individual and cultural differences need to be consistently displayed, and all children need opportunities to model and acquire these same traits (Putnam, 1993).

Finally, social competence is enhanced when teachers recognize the relationship between children's social behaviors In biology, psychology and sociology social behavior is behavior directed towards, or taking place between, members of the same species. Behavior such as predation which involves members of different species is not social.  and interaction patterns at home. It is of critical importance that parents collaborate with school personnel to help children develop socially. When teachers and parents learn and agree on when to praise, ignore, or focus attention on certain behaviors, the social skills of all children improve (Molina, Smith, McIlwain, & Shem, 1997 ]cited in Evans, Axelrod, & Sapia, 2000]).

Theoretical Perspective

Developmentally appropriate practice Developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP) is a perspective within early childhood education whereby a teacher or child caregiver nurtures a child's social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all practices and decisions on (1) theories of child development, (2)  in early childhood programs is guided from a constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism  
n.
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects.
 orientation, whereas practices in special education are typically grounded in behavioral theory. Both perspectives are supported by sound qualitative and quantitative re search. The contention of these authors, in agreement with Duncan, Kemple, and Smith (2000), is that for inclusion to be successful, early childhood and special educators must reconcile this inherent difference. Behavioral strategies that have proven effective with children with special needs would be appropriate for early childhood classrooms within a context of active and meaningful learning. Likewise, developmentally appropriate practice principles can be used by special education teachers in early childhood programs while selecting, teaching, and using methods in which they have been trained, including explicit instruction, shaping, and reinforcement. All teachers can recognize the importance of social development in educating the whole child, and be strong advocates for including social goals in Individualized Education Programs In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In Canada an equivalent document is called an Individual Education Plan.  (IEPs). All teachers can realize the powerful role of modeling and respect individual appropriateness. What may be appropriate for a typically developing child may not be effective with a child with disabilities. Above all, the needs and best interests of the individual child should reign (Johnson, Ironsmith i·ron·smith  
n.
One that makes iron articles; a blacksmith.
, Snow, & Poteat, 2000).

Areas of Social Competence

Social competence can be described as "the ability of young children to successfully and appropriately select and carry out their interpersonal goals" (Guralnik, 1990, p. 4). In the next sections, five general areas of social competence are discussed in the context of an inclusive primary classroom: independence, assertiveness assertiveness /as·ser·tive·ness/ (ah-ser´tiv-nes) the quality or state of bold or confident self-expression, neither aggressive nor submissive. , social sensitivity, friendship building, and social problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
. These areas have developmental importance during the early elementary years and are particularly relevant in an inclusion setting. Although not designed as a comprehensive framework for curriculum, discussion encompasses the social skills regarded as most important by children's teachers (Cummings & Hagerty, 1997).

Independence. Certainly, a major goal of teaching good social skills is to assist children in learning to assume responsibility for themselves and for their own behavior. Although independence is not considered an interpersonal goal, it is basic to social development (Erikson, 1963). From an Eriksonian perspective, children in the early elementary years need to be given opportunities to accomplish tasks on their own in order to develop a sense of "industry versus inferiority."

Quite simply, to function successfully, children must learn to direct their own activities, make decisions, and follow through on their own plans. In addition, they must learn to focus their attention and continue their own activities independently when others are near. Finally, they must learn to accept and manage the consequences of the behavioral choices they make.

Children who have mental disabilities pose additional challenges because they tend to be persistent in having their own way. Independence can become counterproductive coun·ter·pro·duc·tive  
adj.
Tending to hinder rather than serve one's purpose: "Violation of the court order would be counterproductive" Philip H. Lee.
 if not balanced by social sensitivity. Often, this behavior may be due less to noncompliance noncompliance

failure of the owner to follow instructions, particularly in administering medication as prescribed; a cause of a less than expected response to treatment.

noncompliance 
 and more to simple behavioral perseveration perseveration /per·sev·er·a·tion/ (per-sev?er-a´shun) persistent repetition of the same verbal or motor response to varied stimuli; continuance of activity after cessation of the causative stimulus. , a characteristic not uncommon in children with mental retardation (Taras, Matson, & Leary, 1988; Whitman, 1987). In these cases, educators should try to avoid blatant confrontations (thus teaching that confrontations can be avoided), but should not just give up and completely "give in" to the child's demands. Rather, they need to work toward compromise. Such compromises are part and parcel of today's classrooms, and they require teachers to be more flexible and less authoritarian. At the same time, students learn that compromises do not have to be unpleasant.

Teachers encourage independence in the classroom by assigning individual tasks and assignments, allowing children to make choices, providing free time for children to work independently, and teaching children to set personal goals and monitor their own progress. Children with low cognitive functioning cognitive function Neurology Any mental process that involves symbolic operations–eg, perception, memory, creation of imagery, and thinking; CFs encompasses awareness and capacity for judgment , for example, may have a goal of writing two sentences a day in a journal, whereas other children may have a goal of writing at least one-page journal entries each day.

Some children may set weekly or daily goals, whereas others may do better when goals are set in increments of hours, or even less time. Whatever the duration, and however simple or complex the goal, each student needs to evaluate his or her own progress toward meeting it. Whether it be a written paragraph or a one-sentence oral statement, self-evaluation is a powerful way for children to learn self-management. Social learning theorists maintain that self-evaluation is more powerful than external rewards or punishments in supporting self-regulation; when children develop and meet their own performance standards, they reward themselves with feelings of self-efficacy (Bronson, 2000). Okagaki and Diamond (2000) caution, however, that the curriculum should not overemphasize o·ver·em·pha·size  
tr. & intr.v. o·ver·em·pha·sized, o·ver·em·pha·siz·ing, o·ver·em·pha·siz·es
To place too much emphasis on or employ too much emphasis.
 individual work, but also should include goals of interdependence in·ter·de·pen·dent  
adj.
Mutually dependent: "Today, the mission of one institution can be accomplished only by recognizing that it lives in an interdependent world with conflicts and overlapping interests" 
 and collaboration, which tend to be more highly valued in non-European American cultures. Thus, children can set personal goals for cooperative skills during group work, and group goals for cooperative assignments.

Applying the Piagetian adage "Never do anything for a child that he (she) can learn to do for himself (herself)" is often easier said than done, particularly with young children who have disabilities. However, giving children opportunities to fail, known as the "dignity of risk," is an important part of living. Helping a child with disabilities to learn from such failure is a vital part of learning. Although an essential skill, independence is sometimes a painful skill to develop (Perske, 1972). As children learn to do more things for themselves, alone or with the help of a peer (rather than a teacher), their self-esteem is enhanced, and then the teacher has more time to observe, interact, guide, and support.

Assertiveness. Children need to learn assertiveness skills so that they can function in the mainstream classroom and in society, get their needs met, make friends, and avoid becoming victims of teasing teasing

the act of parading a male before a female to see if she displays estrus, and is therefore in a state where mating is likely to be fertile.
 or cruel behavior. Young children typically express healthy assertiveness through developing a repertoire of communication and leadership skills (see Table 1).

Assertiveness skills are some of the most essential, yet difficult, social skills to teach, for a number of reasons. Most children see an extremely wide range of role models in this area, and are often unsure of the line between compliance and assertion, and between assertion and aggression. The distinctions may be unclear, depending on the situation, and because of society's conflicting values about assertive behaviors assertive behavior Psychiatry Bold and/or insistent communication of suggestions or actions to others. See Assertiveness training, Passive behavior. Cf Passive-aggressive behavior. . For example, speaking up for one's rights may be highly esteemed by some people, particularly in certain situations, but considered highly inappropriate and even offensive by others.

Children see aggressive confrontations regularly--in pretend situations (movies, sitcoms The perspective and/or examples in this article do not represent a world-wide view. Please [ edit] this page to improve its geographical balance. ) and in everyday life. When children see this behavior modeled frequently, some will have difficulty comprehending the difference between appropriate assertiveness and aggressive violence. The consequences of this confusion can be dangerous, as has been tragically illustrated by recent incidents involving students and guns, such as the 6-year-old child in a Detroit suburb who brought a gun to school to settle an argument with a classmate.

Teachers and parents can help children learn to distinguish between appropriately asserting themselves and dominating others to get their way, or resorting to violence at one extreme and being exploited and ignored at the other extreme. In some cases, a structured approach, in which specific behaviors are targeted for intervention, may decrease inappropriate behaviors as well as increase appropriate behaviors (Moore, Cartledge, & Heckaman, 1994). In a general education classroom, the special educator may be asked to teach specific social skills to smaller groups of selected students. The teacher can support such training by promoting generalization gen·er·al·i·za·tion
n.
1. The act or an instance of generalizing.

2. A principle, a statement, or an idea having general application.
 of those targeted skills to the whole-group setting of the classroom.

The process of helping children verbalize their feelings and showing them that their feelings are understood can lead to discussions on the best way to handle those feelings. If a child feels that no one listens to him, his frustration could lead to inappropriate coping behaviors that range from becoming passive and withdrawn to acting out in drastic ways for attention. The sensitive teacher can find time to listen attentively to the child, and can take proactive measures In antiterrorism, measures taken in the preventive stage of antiterrorism designed to harden targets and detect actions before they occur.  such as providing structured opportunities for the child to express and share his or her ideas, such as writing and sending a letter, designing a bumper sticker bumper sticker
n.
A sticker bearing a printed message for display on a vehicle's bumper.

bumper sticker nAufkleber m 
 or a poster for display, or preparing and giving a short speech. The teacher can help empower all students in the class by soliciting their ideas, particularly those that involve changes in the school or classroom, and then involving the children in implementing agreed-upon actions.

The learning of assertiveness skills is well-suited for strategic intervention through direct teaching and modeling during "teachable teach·a·ble  
adj.
1. That can be taught: teachable skills.

2. Able and willing to learn: teachable youngsters.
 moments." If a child hits another child for grabbing the computer mouse, for example, the teacher could say, "Let me show you how to tell her what you want." The teacher then could demonstrate a non-aggressive, yet assertive, alternative such as saying, "I don't like it when you grab something out of my hand. I was here first and when my time is up, you can have it." Children with limited verbal skills often require more intensive work in language development in order to learn to assert themselves appropriately (Johnson et al., 2000).

For any form of democratic republic to survive, all citizens must be taught to preserve their freedoms by standing up for their rights and beliefs. This does not suggest, however, that an individual's rights always take precedence over the rights of others, especially in school. Teaching children to stand up in support of their beliefs is important, but assertiveness must be tempered with social sensitivity. Children need help to seek understanding of all perspectives of a situation before taking a firm stand. In addition, they need to know that it is okay to change their minds. As children express their beliefs, teachers can help them learn how to "agree to disagree Agree to disagree or "agreeing to disagree" describes or refers to a situation where two or more people or groups of people resolve conflict by reaching an agreement whereby both sides tolerate but do not accept the views, opinions or position of the other side. ," and how to disagree without alienating al·ien·ate  
tr.v. al·ien·at·ed, al·ien·at·ing, al·ien·ates
1. To cause to become unfriendly or hostile; estrange: alienate a friend; alienate potential supporters by taking extreme positions.
 others.

Cultural differences are an important consideration in understanding assertiveness behaviors. For example, Hispanic American, Native American, and Asian American A·sian A·mer·i·can also A·sian-A·mer·i·can  
n.
A U.S. citizen or resident of Asian descent. See Usage Note at Amerasian.



A
 children may be taught to be passive at home. Many African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  children, however, are often raised to be very assertive, and therefore may be described as aggressive (Rivera & Rogers-Adkinson, 1997). Teachers should discuss these differences with students and parents, providing a clear explanation of the social skills that are being taught, why they are important, and how to help discern when they are needed and appropriate.

In a different vein, assertiveness skills are especially needed to help children respond in dangerous situations. Many teachers are expected to teach children to protect themselves from potential harm. For example, asserting the right to run away or shout to get another's attention (or both) when confronted by a stranger is not only advisable, it is a necessity. Learning these skills can be even more problematic for children with disabilities if they lack some of the cognitive skills cognitive skill Psychology Any of a number of acquired skills that reflect an individual's ability to think; CSs include verbal and spatial abilities, and have a significant hereditary component  required to discern dangerous situations, or the physical ability to flee or seek help. Effective strategies to teach these skills will involve using or designing role-play and demonstration situations that are individualized in·di·vid·u·al·ize  
tr.v. in·di·vid·u·al·ized, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·ing, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·es
1. To give individuality to.

2. To consider or treat individually; particularize.

3.
 to recognize the needs and possible limitations of the children in the group. Extensive research shows that skills learning is maximized when the skills are explicitly taught, discussed, and frequently practiced in a variety of situations and contexts (Cummings & Hagerty, 1997; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994).

Social Sensitivity. It is important for all children, regardless of their functioning level, to learn how to interpret and understand the needs and feelings of other people and to develop respectful behavior toward them (see Table 2). In early childhood, one of the first such lessons involves the concept of sharing. Children are expected to share equipment, experiences, and the attention of other people. While not easy for any child, sharing can be particularly difficult for a child with disabilities. Because children with disabilities often receive a great deal of attention at home, they may expect the same level of attention in the classroom. Although many such children have wonderful sharing skills, some may find it hard to share the teacher's attention and respect the rights of other children to be included in various classroom activities.

Teachers will want to ignore many (if not most) seemingly self-centered behaviors, and choose instead to give positive attention to a child when he or she shares attention with others or compliments another child's work. Modeling and reinforcing these socially appropriate behaviors will help all children learn them; constant and careful repetition of this modeling and reinforcement will greatly increase the chance that children with low cognitive functioning will learn the behaviors.

Young children are often very astute in learning certain social cues. For example, children readily hold hands upon being instructed to do so. However, children with certain disorders (such as autism autism (ô`tĭzəm), developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. ) may dislike physical contact, and so often find it difficult to participate in activities that require physical contact (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000). These children may benefit if they are rewarded for small, successive approximations successive approximation
n.
A method for estimating the value of an unknown quantity by repeated comparison to a sequence of known quantities.
 of the desired skill. Offering a tangible reward, which always should be accompanied by verbal praise and explanation for the reward, should, for a time, decrease the child's tendency to avoid contact with others.

Friendship Building. Making friends, or relating positively to others, is a major component of social competence and a central concern throughout childhood. All children want to know that their peers like and respect them. While some skills related to friendship-building (see Table 3) may be taught through modeling, specifically teaching these skills can be more successful.

Most fundamentally, the classroom teacher needs to create an environment that rewards interest in others, cooperation, collaboration, and acts of simple kindness. Regularly communicating expectations of mutual caring and respect (e.g., "We are a community where people care about each other") at the beginning of the school year does much to promote friendships and prevent peer rejection (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Lickona, 1992). Helping the class develop a group identity through rituals and traditions is a very effective way for teachers to build group cohesion. The class could recite a daily group "pledge" to help each other learn; hold regular class meetings; use code words or signals; or create group symbols such as a special handshake handshake - handshaking , song, or classroom flag.

Perceptive per·cep·tive
adj.
1. Of or relating to perception.

2. Having the ability to perceive.

3. Keenly discerning.



per
 teachers will carefully observe students at work and play to target specific social skill behaviors that individual children need to improve upon. Vygotsky's (1978) concept of "scaffolding" then can be used effectively to interact with each child at a level within his or her "zone of proximal development Lev Vygotsky's notion of zone of proximal development (зона ближайшего развития), often abbreviated ZPD ." At one end of the zone, the teacher helps the child perform the skill through a structured environment with teacher talk, modeling, or props. The teacher acts as a scaffold scaffold

Temporary platform used to elevate and support workers and materials during work on a structure or machine. It consists of one or more wooden planks and is supported by either a timber or a tubular steel or aluminum frame; bamboo is used in parts of Asia.
, or support, to help move the student from one end of the zone to the other, wherein the student can perform the skill without assistance. Observation and diagnosis are important in this process so that teachers can build on those skills that students already have developed (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).

Children with disabilities in the regular classroom tend to have more difficulty building friendships, simply because they may have learned that other children can hurt them. Children's behavior is guided by their interpretation of social cues based on prior experiences. For example, a child who has been relentlessly ridiculed by peers in the past may attribute all humorous remarks toward them as hostile, rather than discerning those that are simply good-natured teasing. This can lead children to retaliate, which will impede friendship formation and most likely lead to further alienation. Thus, interventions that address children's social goals may be more effective than teaching only social skills. When children exhibit such problems at young ages, intervention is critical to prevent such thought patterns from becoming ingrained in·grained  
adj.
1. Firmly established; deep-seated: ingrained prejudice; the ingrained habits of a lifetime.

2.
 and more stabilized (Erdley & Asher, 1999). In their observations of 25 early elementary classrooms, Gropper and Froschl (2000) found a consistent lack of teacher or other adult intervention in teasing and bullying behavior. Interviews with children in the classrooms (n > 75) indicated that they yearned for adults to directly intervene in these situations.

Teachers need to provide many opportunities for children to practice their friendship-building skills. Activities that allow children to discover shared interests provide fertile soil for cultivating friendships. Another effective strategy to help build friendships is "partnering" or a "peer buddy" approach, in which a typically developing child interacts with a child with a disability in ongoing academic and social activities across the school day (Odom et al., 1999; Snell & Brown, 2000). To prevent a stigma becoming associated with this arrangement, however, it is recommended that all students in the classroom be partnered, and that the teacher provide specific responsibilities and tasks for each partner.

All children with disabilities need opportunities to assume leadership roles in the classroom, however minor. They might, for example, distribute or collect materials, lead morning exercises, inspect finished products for completion, or even help to correct work (given a model to follow). This responsibility reinforces their own self-perception and the perception of other students that they are competent, contributing members of the group (Lewis & Doorlag, 1999; Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy dow·dy  
adj. dow·di·er, dow·di·est
1. Lacking stylishness or neatness; shabby: a dowdy gray outfit.

2. Old-fashioned; antiquated.

n. pl.
, 1988).

Social Problem-Solving Skills. Perhaps nowhere in the curriculum is it more important for children to learn the benefit of problem-solving skills than in social situations. Once they have learned new social skills, children need to know when to use them, where to use them, and how to choose from among them. In social problem-solving situations, children learn to use an increasing repertoire of interpersonal skills, including:

* Negotiating differences so that all concerned are satisfied with the results

* Compromising and collaborating in group projects

* Avoiding or refusing to participate in irresponsible behaviors

* Handling harassment Ask a Lawyer

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 from others (such as teasing, bullying)

* Making responsible choices

* Seeking and receiving help from others.

Social problem-solving requires the use of not only social skills, but also higher-order thinking Higher-order thinking is a fundamental concept of Education reform based on Bloom's Taxonomy. Rather than simply teaching recall of facts, students will be taught reasoning and processes, and be better lifelong learners.  skills, such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and metacognitive strategies. Children learn to assess a social situation, select an appropriate skill and use it, then determine the skill's effectiveness as a solution. Teachers can enhance the problem-solving skills of primary age children by suggesting useful strategies and by making them consciously aware of strategies they are already using. With further maturation and experience, most children can learn to monitor their own behavior and modify the problem-solving strategies they are using when necessary (Bronson, 2000).

Before they can be expected to significantly benefit from problem-solving activities, children with disabilities, particularly cognitive disabilities, often need to be taught social skills at a very basic level, such as how to share materials, take turns, and interact during someone else's turn. They should not be deprived, however, of opportunities to learn problem-solving strategies. The nature of the problem situation can be modified, while still requiring them to generate alternative ways to handle it. One rule of thumb for teachers working with children with special needs in problem solving is to keep expectations high, and always avoid pity. If one expects more, one can usually get more; pity, however, is never a constructive emotion in the classroom.

Children as young as preschoolers can learn to use various strategies to successfully solve social problems, including peer mediation and conflict resolution (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998; Kreidler, 1999). In some cases, older children with less severe disabilities (e.g., those who are learning disabled or communicatively challenged) may be capable of taking leadership roles in this arena. Because these children typically do not cause problems with other children, they may be seen as more "neutral," and therefore less biased in serving as mediators.

Encouraging children to develop their own solutions may be difficult for teachers who feel constantly pressured to find valuable instructional time, and whose instinct may be to produce quick, efficient solutions to students' problems. But the payoff is worthwhile. When children are instructed, allowed, and encouraged to solve social problems for themselves, they gain a greater sense of personal control over their environment. They become better prepared to deal with the future challenges that life inevitably holds. The goal is for all children to develop the mindset mind·set or mind-set
n.
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.

2. An inclination or a habit.
 of: "I can handle my problems. Even when things don't go as I want, I can find another way" (Dodge, Jablon, & Bickart, 1994).

Conclusion

Basic social skills training will always be necessary for all young children; the levels of successful acquisition will vary. Certainly, many children with disabilities form strong, meaningful friendships and have social skills equal to, or better than, some of their peers without disabilities.

In general, teachers who consistently set a good example through conscious modeling and express genuine affection for all students, while at the same time verbally explaining or commenting on what is happening in the environment, are positively influencing social behavior in any classroom. However, some children with special needs (particularly those with mental retardation) may fail to acquire skills through simple modeling. These children require "over-learning" to an extent that may seem redundant to most regular educators and nondisabled students (Beirne-Smith, Ittenbach, & Patton, 1998). The key, then, becomes providing multiple skill exposure and practice for children with low cognitive functioning, while offering new and varying learning opportunities for children without such disabilities.

Understandably, teachers often feel overwhelmed o·ver·whelm  
tr.v. o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.

2.
a.
 by the social and academic needs of their students in inclusive classrooms. Thousands of times each day, teachers must decide how to respond to student behaviors, both prosocial and antisocial antisocial /an·ti·so·cial/ (-so´sh'l)
1. denoting behavior that violates the rights of others, societal mores, or the law.

2. denoting the specific personality traits seen in antisocial personality disorder.
. It is the authors' contention that, in any classroom and especially in early childhood inclusive situations, the teacher should actively choose to teach social competence, using his or her professional knowledge of many perspectives to select from a wide repertoire of strategies.

Table 1

BEHAVIORS RELATED TO APPROPRIATE ASSERTIVE SKILLS

* Expressing needs and wants

* Introducing self to new people

* Expressing feelings when wronged

* Questioning unfair rules and practices

* Standing up for personal beliefs

* Assuming leadership role in peer activities

* Sharing ideas and opinions

* Initiating conversation

* Inviting others to interact

* Resisting peer pressure

* Choosing to walk away from conflict

* Asking for assistance

Table 2

BEHAVIORS RELATED TO SOCIAL SENSITIVITY

General

* Sharing materials

* Having a sense of fair play

* Taking turns

* Using good manners Noun 1. good manners - a courteous manner
courtesy

personal manner, manner - a way of acting or behaving

niceness, politeness - a courteous manner that respects accepted social usage

urbanity - polished courtesy; elegance of manner
 (saying "please," "thank you," "excuse me," etc.)

* Following rules

Communication

* Listening when others are speaking (not interrupting)

* Giving the speaker feedback

* Sharing in discussion (not monopolizing conversation)

Respect

* Accepting different viewpoints

* Appreciating perspectives of other people

* Respecting others' belongings and personal space

* Respecting rights of others

* Avoiding stereotypes and prejudice

* Valuing strengths that come from individual differences

Emotional Awareness

* Correctly assessing another's emotional state

* Exhibiting empathy and compassion

* Putting others at ease

Table 3

SKILLS IN PEER RELATIONS DURING EARLY CHILDHOOD

* Introducing oneself and introducing others

* Joining in group activities

* Inviting others to play or work together

* Sharing toys, materials, and belongings

* Asking for a favor

* Exchanging play ideas

* Offering to help

* Negotiating play roles

* Giving and accepting compliments

* Apologizing

* Forgiving

* Smiling and laughing with peers

* Appreciating and sharing a sense of humor Noun 1. sense of humor - the trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous; "she didn't appreciate my humor"; "you can't survive in the army without a sense of humor"
sense of humour, humor, humour
 

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Lauren O. McCay is Associate Professor, Early Childhood and Elementary Education elementary education
 or primary education

Traditionally, the first stage of formal education, beginning at age 5–7 and ending at age 11–13.
, University of Montevallo History
The University of Montevallo opened October 1896 as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School (AGIS), a women-only technical school that also offered high school-level courses.
, Montevallo, Alabama Montevallo is a college town in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. It serves as the home of the University of Montevallo, a public liberal arts university with around 3000 students. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city of Montevallo is 4,825. . Denis Denis, king of Portugal: see Diniz.  W. Keyes is Associate Professor, Special Education, College of Charleston The College of Charleston (CofC) is a public university located in historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The College was founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, making it the oldest college or university in South Carolina, the 13th oldest institution of higher learning in , Charleston, South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures


Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15.
.
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