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A taxonomy of community living skills.

ABSTRACT: A survey of experts in mental retardation was conducted to assess the forthcoming Taxonomy of Community Living Skills, a guide for curriculum developers and administrators. Items in five domains (personal maintenance and development, homemaking and community life, vocational, leisure, and travel) were rated. Responses were generally favorable. Comments and suggestions made by the experts provided a basis for a revision of the taxonomy and its theoretical exposition. Fl The need for instruction of persons with mental retardation was formally identified by Itard, and later brought to this country by Seguin (Scheerenberger, 1983). It has been more than 180 years since Itard published the Wild Boy of Aveyron (1806), and in that time the idea has moved in and out of salience among workers in the field, but it has never been completely out of sight.

Over the last quarter of a century, instruction has become an increasingly important issue. For example, starting in 1959, each of the manuals on terminology and classification of mental retardation published by the American Association on Mental Deficiency (Heber, 1959, 1961; Grossman, 1973; 1983) has stated that retarded persons who learn to exhibit sufficient "adaptive behavior" can no longer be called "retarded." Such statements reflect the perception that the need for instruction is a central factor in mental retardation; indeed, since 1973, the concept has been reflected in federal and state laws, for example, in P.L. 94-142. Recently researchers have focused on the need for instruction in community living skills e.g., Brown, Branston-McC]ean, et al., 1979; Bruininks, Meyers, Sigford, & Lakin, 1981; Gold, 1980; Wehman & Hill, 1982a, 1982b; Wilcox & Bellamy, 1987). CURRICULUM VERSUS PROGRAM Research in instructional development since the mid-1970s has largely taken the form of program development for individuals (e.g., Brown, Falvey, et al., 1980). However, program development is not synonymous with curriculum development: a program, as defined in the rules and regulations emanating from P.L. 94-142 and Section 504 of the Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a statement of what will be taught to a specific learner over a specified period of time. A curriculum, on the other hand, is a statement of what anyone would have to learn to reach a goal. Curricula can be used to guide the development of programs, but programs cannot be used to guide the development of curricula. Confusion on this point is widespread, and many program development guides have been labeled as curricula (e.g., Wilcox & Bellamy, 1987). It is possible that this confusion is one source for the lack of progress in curriculum development in recent times. THE INSTRUCTIONAL PARADIGM At least since the beginning of the 20th century, curriculum theorists have operated within what can be termed the instructional paradigm (Figure 1). This system of thought holds that the first step in curriculum development is to establish the aim of instruction, or what instruction will attempt to teach. Given a context, the goals of instruction can be established, and instructional sequences leading to those goals developed. Once the instructional pathways to the goals have been established, instruction can begin.

Despite strong statements and sentiments on the need for instruction of persons with mental retardation, few curricula congruent with the mainstream of instructional thought have appeared in the field (the major exception has been the work of those espousing career education, e.g., Kokaska & Brolin, 1986). That is, mainstream curriculum theorists hold that it is necessary to establish clear goals of instruction before trying to develop curricula (Dewey, 1902; Popham & Baker, 1970; Smith, Stanley, & Shores, 1957; Taba, 1962; Tanner & Tanner, 1980; Tyler, 1957). Unfortunately, those of us who work with retarded persons seem to have missed this point over the years, and a clearly stated, complete, coherent, and commonly agreed-upon statement of instructional goals for retarded persons is nowhere to be found. This is not to say that attempts to specify curriculum goals have not been made. On the contrary, many workers have attempted to state goals in one form or another (e.g., Brolin, 1978; Goldstein, 1974). Despite these efforts, there is little agreement in the field that instructional goals must be specified apart from individuals, let alone which goals would provide appropriate instructional endpoints for special education and rehabilitation. Inevitably, curricula for mentally retarded persons must remain merely trivial if there are no clear instructional goals to serve as curriculum benchmarks.

It is clear that a major statement of instructional goals is required if the instructional thrust of the field is to be carried to fulfillment. Accordingly, over a 6-year period, working with several different groups of persons in various curriculum development projects, I have designed and constructed a taxonomy of community living skills that provides a comprehensive, clear, and rational statement of the endpoints of instruction for retarded persons (Dever, 1988). This taxonomy can be used to make decisions about the contents of a potential curriculum, and it provides a set of instructional benchmarks that curriculum development teams can use to guide their efforts.

This article (a) presents the structure of the taxonomy and (b) presents data from a national survey conducted among professionals in the field. CONTENT AND STRUCTURE OF THE TAXONOMY Aim The aim of curricula developed under the aegis of the taxonomy is to make learners independent. This aim has been expressed by many curriculum developers (e.g., Goldstein, 1974), but it has never been defined in behavioral terms. As a result, it has remained a vague concept that has not been useful in guiding curriculum development efforts.

The problem that had to be solved was that nobody is truly independent: We all depend on others to some degree-on those who transport goods to the markets, on those who manufacture and sell machines and supplies, and on those who work in service occupations. In turn, many people depend on us for various things. In other words, rather than being independent, we are interdependent; that is, we are part of a fabric that constitutes the society.

The key to the definition of independence that is the foundation of the taxonomy lies in an observation made by Roger Barker (1968). The behavior of a person in any location is more similar to that of other persons in that location than it is to the behavior of the same person in different locations. People, it seems, behave in very predictable ways: When a person goes to a supermarket, he or she does the things that people in supermarkets do; when a person goes to a church, he or she does the things that people in the church do. As long as people behave in predictable ways, everything seems to go smoothly. But when behavior is out of place, it attracts attention that can be very negative. For example, if a person goes to a supermarket and does the things people do in church, that person would attract negative attention.

The behavioral predictability of persons in behavior settings allowed the development of a behavioral definition of independence that now can serve as the aim of instruction:

Independence is exhibiting behavior patterns

appropriate to the behavior settings

that are frequented by others of the

person's age and social status in such a

manner that the individual is not perceived

as requiring assistance because of his

behavior. (Dever, 1983)

In other words, if a person can go where others go, do what they do there, and not look out of place because of his or her behavior, that person would be seen by others as part of the fabric of the community. To the extent that the person cannot do these things, he or she would be perceived as dependent. Therefore, instruction should focus on teaching persons with retardation to do what people in the community do in the course of their ordinary lives.

The next step was to develop a statement of typical routines of life's activities. Analysis of these routines, in turn, yielded the list of goals and skills that now constitutes the taxonomy. Content The Taxonomy of Community Living Skills provides an organized statement of skills, the performance of which will allow a person to become part of the fabric of life in an American community. Because they focus on the community and its requirements, the skills listed in the taxonomy provide instructional goals for anyone who must be taught to become a functioning member of a community. The list was developed by first detailing the daily life through which each of us must go, and then analyzing the skills that must be exhibited to get through the day, the week, the month, the seasons, and the year.

Prerequisite and lead-up skills are not listed in the taxonomy; for example, there is no mention of communication, motor, or academic skills. The reason for this apparent omission is that such skills are not goals in themselves, but rather, intermediate steps to the goals. They are sometimes, but not always, prerequisites to goal attainment. Despite the impression given by many existing curricula, it is not necessary for all learners to develop great control over these skills: Many low-functioning persons have been able to attain many of the goals listed in the taxonomy without having gained complete control over them. Organization The goals are organized in five domains, as shown in Figure 2. The domains represented by the three sides of the large triangle contain the skills that must be exhibited in community settings. They are the skills in the homemaking and community life, vocational, and leisure domains. In the center of the community are the skills everyone must learn in order to care for himself or herself, that is, the personal maintenance and development domain. Finally, the travel domain is represented by the large circle that connects the person with the community. The five domains represent the person as he or she lives, works, plays, and moves through the community. Major Goals Figure 3 contains a list of the major goals of instruction as they appear in the taxonomy. In general, there is not much difference between these statements and those found in various curricula that have been developed for use with retarded persons, with the exception of the following. Completeness. The Taxonomy of Community Living Skills appears to provide the most complete statement of instructional goals available at the present time. Many curricula that specify goals (many do not list goals) have listed some of the skill areas that are presented in the taxonomy, but no curriculum lists them all. in fact, most curricula tend to have very constrained lists of skills, and typically focus on only a small fraction of the goals found in the taxonomy. Even within this constraint, curricula have a tendency not to develop an instructional area fully. For example, many curricula focus on personal maintenance skills, but few list "first aid procedures" as something that retarded persons must learn to perform. Obviously, persons who do not know rudimentary first aid procedures will continue to require assistance from other people and will always remain somewhat dependent. Therefore, instruction in first aid and other skills that are often overlooked is a requirement for community-oriented instruction.

The fact that no curriculum contains the range of goals provided in the taxonomy is not a reflection on the competence of curriculum developers. Rather, the incompleteness is due to a problem inherent in the curriculum development process: Personnel who develop curricula to teach people to become part of the fabric of the community must deal with the fact that all such curricula must be developed for specific groups in specific situations. No single curriculum can respond to the needs of all learners in all locations. In fact, the only curricula that can apply to retarded persons in different locations would be those that focus on general prerequisites and lead-up skills, such as motor or language skills.

The completeness of the taxonomy provides a set of benchmarks for all curriculum developers. Users can select the goals that are appropriate for their learners and their agencies, and develop curricula leading to the goals they have selected. Glitches. Service agencies generally do not require retarded persons to deal with unexpected events. In most locations, any problems that arise are handled by staff, and learners often do not discover that a problem has occurred (let alone be required to deal with it). This approach is not productive: It is an unfortunate fact that everyone has days when nothing goes right; for example, when we start the day by breaking a shoelace, it sometimes proves to be the high point of the day. If a person does not learn to cope with life's minor problems, he or she will always require extraordinary assistance. The fact that everyone has bad days indicates that retarded persons either should be taught to cope with them or be forced to remain dependent on others. Unfortunately, instruction in coping with such problems is seldom provided.

The concept of glitches is not new in curriculum circles: Other workers have focused on the fact that life's unexpected problems exist, and that people must learn to cope with them to become part of the fabric of the community. For example, Robert Zuckerman, at Kent State University, calls them ,unanticipated events" (Zuckerman, personal communication). Despite the fact that the idea has been presented elsewhere, it is not generally perceived as a curriculum focus. It is, however, a major focus of the taxonomy: Each domain lists glitches with which everyone must learn to cope. In general terms, they fall into the categories of (a) problems with time (e.g., missing the bus and being late for appointments); (b) problems with depletion of materials (e.g., finding that the soap has been used up after turning the shower on and getting all wet); and (c) problems with equipment breakdowns (e.g., a broken shoelace). Skills Each of the major goat areas has been analyzed to provide lists of skills, the performance of which will move the learner toward the goals. The performance of these skills may or may not be required of a specific learner in a specific community setting. For example, Figure 4 presents the list of skills for the Homemaking and Community Life goal H 11 B: Keep Fabric Items Clean and Repaired. Included in this list are the skills of cleaning carpets, curtains, and furniture fabrics. Many learners will not have to learn these skills to survive in the community; however, some will. Therefore, they are included. It is necessary to keep in mind that the taxonomy was designed to be used by curriculum developers in many different situations. Therefore, an effort was made during development to avoid sins of omission. Accordingly, the list of skills will prove to be more complete than is necessary in many instances. Use of the Taxonomy The Taxonomy of Community Living Skills is not a curriculum: It is an organized statement of instructional goals that curriculum developers can use as benchmarks toward which to aim their curricula. Many curricula will not list skills as they appear in the taxonomy, but rather, skills that lead in the direction of the goals (e.g., those for young children or for severely physically disabled persons). The taxonomy is every bit as applicable to these curricula as it is to those that focus directly on teaching the endpoints; that is, instructional beginnings are impossible to find in the absence of clearly stated endpoints.

The taxonomy was developed for use in constructing curricula for severely retarded persons. Its use is probably wider than this statement suggests, however, because retarded persons are not the only ones who experience difficulty in learning to live in the community. Other groups also have this problem: less severely retarded persons, persons with physical or sensory disabilities, released prisoners, and many immigrant and other non-English-speaking populations. Instructional personnel developing curricula for any of these groups should find the goals listed in the taxonomy useful. SURVEY RESULTS A national survey was conducted on a field-test version of the taxonomy (Dever, 1986). The respondent cohort was gathered from the lists of reviewers in the following journals: Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps; Mental Retardation; and Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded. Reviewers known to be in fields such as medicine, social work, law, and other fields not directly focused on instruction were eliminated from the list. In addition, a list of faculty members of colleges and universities in the area of mental retardation was purchased from The Council for Exceptional Children. Again, names of persons known not to have a professional focus on instruction were eliminated. The final list of 114 names constituted a group of highly experienced respondents, many of whom have high visibility in the field. This group provided a cohort of "experts" in the field of mental retardation who would be able to render a professional critique of the taxonomy.

In the spring of 1986, a copy of the field-test version of the taxonomy was sent to each of the respondents along with a request to respond to a 7-item questionnaire on the taxonomy. The respondents were asked to score each of the following items on a scale from I (Poor) to 5 (Very Good). I .Coherence of the taxonomic model. 2. Appropriateness of the five domains. 3. Completeness of the taxonomy in accounting for

all tasks in the community. 4. The concept of glitches as it appears in each

domain. 5. Relationship of goals and objectives i.e., skills)

to functional community living. 6. Relationship of objectives (i.e., skills) to goals. 7. Usefulness of the taxonomy for instruction.

A follow-up letter was sent to all respondents who had not replied by August I of that year. A total of 59 respondents returned the completed questionnaire (52% return). Many respondents provided critical comments in addition to scores for the items on the questionnaire. Three sent notes explaining that they did not feel qualified to critique the document, and four passed the questionnaire on to others whom they felt to be more qualified or who had more time to make a response.

The results of the survey, which were used to modify both the taxonomy and the introductory chapters, are presented in Table 1. As can be seen from this table, the general response was favorable, with all questions obtaining a mean score of nearly 4" and above on the 5-point scale.

The two lowest scores were those referring to completeness" of the taxonomy, and usefulness." Both sets of scores were lowered by the relatively great number of 1-3" scores for these items (22. 1 % and 23.7%, respectively). Perusal of the comments made relative to these items indicates that a number of respondents considered the taxonomy to be a curriculum, and as such, saw it as incomplete. For example, several respondents noted the lack of motor or communication skills in the taxonomy (which are precursors to the goals, not goals per se). This response caused the author to rewrite the introductory chapters of the taxonomy completely, and to ask Dr. Dennis Knapczyk to write a chapter on how to use it to develop curricula. These actions should help users of the taxonomy be more clear both on what it is and how it can and cannot be used. Despite this problem, 74. 1 % of the respondents gave the taxonomy scores of 4-5 on "completeness," and 72.9% gave scores of 4-5 for "usefulness."

Originally, the skills listed under the goals were called "objectives." This terminology changed as a result of comments made by the respondents: The items referring to objectives" should now be read as referring to the lists of skills found under each goal. The high scores given to items 5 X. = 4,48) and 6 X. = 4.47) indicate that the respondents thought that the skills related to the goals, and also to daily life in the community.

The concept of "glitches" received high scores, although several respondents suggested that the name be changed because it seemed too "slangy." The decision was made to retain it, however. It is a Yiddish word (Rosten, 1970), that the Oxford English Dictionary states was brought into English by technicians who used it to refer to transient electrical surges that cause malfunctions in electrical equipment. It entered common usage during transmissions from space by the astronauts who used it to refer to unexpected minor problems with the spacecraft machinery. It has since been used to refer to minor problems experienced by people in everyday life. As such, it appears to capture the concept intended as no other word could. Therefore, its use was retained.

Finally, the items on "coherence" and "appropriateness" (items I and 2) received high scores X. = 4.29 and 4.55, respectively), indicating that the respondents believed the taxonomy to be well organized. This response was not unexpected: The organization is quite similar to many others used in various curricula, and should be familiar to most persons in the field. CONCLUSION The Taxonomy of Community Living Skills represents a serious attempt to focus instruction for retarded individuals on life in the community, and to assist curriculum developers in all settings to coordinate their work. As stated previously, the taxonomy is not a curriculum, but rather, a statement of goals that can assist curriculum developers in the work of developing approaches to teach people to be part of the fabric of the community. In a very real sense, the function of the taxonomy is to serve as a guide for curriculum development. The purpose and use of the taxonomy are reflected in the following statement by John Dewey:

To see the outcome is to know in what direction the

present experience is moving. . . . The far-away

point, which is of no significance to us simply as

far-away, becomes of huge importance the moment

we take it as defining a present direction of

movement . . . it is no remote and distant result

to be achieved, but a guiding method in dealing

with the present. (Dewey, 1902, p. 18)

The data from the survey indicate that experts in the field perceive the taxonomy as a potentially useful document. There is still much work yet to do, however, and those who begin to use it will find that it opens a Pandora's Box of questions, such as "Which agencies should take responsibility for instruction in specific areas?" and "How should curricula for very young children or very severely handicapped persons relate to those for older and more mildly handicapped persons?" The answers to these and other questions will not come easily, but they must be asked. The Taxonomy of Community Living Skills provides the first step in the process. REFERENCES Barker, R. (1962). Ecological psychology: Concepts and

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University of Chicago Press. Gold, M. (1980). Did I say that? Champaign, IL: Research

Press. Goldstein, H. (1974). Social learning curriculum. Columbus,

OH: Charles E. Merrill. Grossman, H. 1973). Manual on terminology and classification in mental retardation. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Deficiency. Grossman, H. (1983). Classification in mental retardation. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Deficiency. Heber, R. (1959). A manual on terminology and classification in mental retardation. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Deficiency. Heber, R. (1961). A manual on terminology and classification in mental retardation. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Deficiency. Itard, J. (I 806). The wild boy of Aveyron (G. Humphrey & M. Humphrey, trans].). New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts. Kokaska, C., & Brolin, D. 1986). Career education for handicapped individuals. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill. Popham, W., & Baker, E. (1970). Systematic instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Rosten, L. (1970). The joys of Yiddish. New York: Washington Square Press. Scheerenberger, R. (1983). A history of mental retardation. New York: Wiley. Smith, B., Stanley, W., & Shores, B. (1957). Fundamentals of curriculum development. Yonkers, NY: World Books. Taba, H. (1962). Curriculum development: Theory and practice. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich. Tanner, D., & Tanner, L. (1980). Curriculum development: Theory into practice. (2nd ed.). New York: MacMillan. Tyler, R. (1957). The curriculum-then and now. Proceedings of the 1956 invitational conference on testing problems. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Wehman, P., & Hill, J. (1982a). Preparing severely handicapped youth for less restrictive environments. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 7, 33-39. Wehman, P., & Hill, J. (1982b). Vocational training and placement of severely disabled persons (Project Employability, Vol. III). Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University. Wilcox, B., & Bellamy, T. (1987). The activities catalog: An alternative curriculum for youth and adults with severe disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
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Title Annotation:guide for curriculum developers and administrators
Author:Dever, Richard B.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Words:4327
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