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Play behavior of hearing impaired children: integrated and segregated settings.

ABSTRACT: The free-play behavior of young hearing impaired children in integrated and segrated settings was compared using a multielement baseline design. Two children, aged 3 and 5, were observed using momentary time sampling of their play as they alternated from one setting to the other. Data were collected in each setting for various categories of play behavior. The categories were derived from the classic play categories of Parten and Smilansky. Results indicate that the children engaged in more socially advanced play in the integrated setting. F] Since 1975, legislative and legal mandates have resulted in the placement of increasing numbers of young handicapped children into integrated settings with their nonhandicapped peers. As a result, the effects of integrating handicapped and nonhandicapped preschoolers have become a major research focus in special education (Kohl & Beckman, 1984). A number of logical arguments and some empirical data have been presented to support the contention that integrated environments can have a positive impact on the less advanced children Gurainick, 1976, 1978). Handicapped children can benefit from interaction with advanced models during play, the experience of more realistic social consequences, and the observation of more appropriate communicative interactions (Guralnick, 1978, 1980).

Although the integration of handicapped preschool children with their nonhandicapped peers has been identified as "best educational practice" (Vincent, Brown, & Getz-Sheftel, 1981), the integration of young hearing impaired children has been relatively slow. Reluctance toward the placement of hearing impaired children in regular early childhood programs may be due to what has been referred to as the parochial and insular nature of deaf education (Northcott, 1978). As a result, young hearing impaired children frequently spend most or all of their school day in segregated settings with other similarly handicapped children.

The occurrence of play interactions among young children is being increasingly recognized as an important component of normal child development (Hartup, 1978; Higginbotham & Baker, 1981). It is also recognized that the communication deficits of young hearing impaired children interfere with normal play development (Higginbotham, Baker, & Neill, 1980). Delayed verbal language ability, for example, may restrict the emergence of cooperative make-believe play involving the symbolic use of objects and sophisticated peer interaction because verbal exchange appears necessary to sustain such play (Darbyshire, 1977; Garvey, 1974; Garvey & Hogan, 1973; Higginbotham & Baker, 1981). As a result, hearing impaired children tend to engage in less complex and less social play than do normally hearing children (Brackett & Henniges, 1976; Kretschmer, 1972; Mann, 1984).

In recent years, research designed to learn more about the play of young hearing impaired children has taken place. The majority of this work has examined play differences between hearing impaired and normally hearing children (Aymard, 1977; Darbyshire, 1977; Hasenstab, 1975; Higginbotham & Baker, 1981; Kretschmer, 1972; Mann, 1984; McKirdy, 1978; Paddon, 1980; Van Lieshout, 1973). A number of researchers have compared dichotomous groups of hearing impaired children. For example, children with high and low verbal language ability have been compared (Brackett & Henniges, 1976; Casby & McCormack, 1985). Other researchers have examined the effects of integrated versus segregated settings on the play of hearing impaired children imbedded within larger groups of exceptional children (Federlein, 1980; Field, Roseman, De Stefano, & Koewler, 1982). Finally, a few researchers have used within-subject designs to examine the effects of setting on play (e.g., Fenrick, Pearson, & Pepelnjak, 1984).

The present investigation involved observation of the free-play behavior of two hearing impaired children in two naturally occurring conditions: an integrated and a segregated setting. The primary purpose of the study was to determine if a functional relationship exists between settings and categories of social play representing different levels of peer interaction. A secondary purpose was to determine if a functional relationship exists between settings and categories of cognitive play. METHOD Subjects and Settings Michael was a 3 1/2-year-old boy who had a severe (60-90 dB)-to-profound (90 + dB) binaural hearing loss, thought to be a result of meningitis at 18 months of age. He was diagnosed at the age of 23 months and fitted with a hearing aid within 2 months of diagnosis. He began formal training at 24 months of age. He was not diagnosed as having any concurrent physical, intellectual, psychological, or visual impairments.

Vicki was a 5-year-old girl who had a severe (60-90 dB) binaural hearing loss, presumably as a result of high fever at I I months of age. She was diagnosed at the age of 18 months and fitted with a hearing aid within I month of diagnosis. She began home-bound instruction at 19 months of age. She was not diagnosed as having any other impairments.

Michael and Vicki were two of seven students attending a public school, self-contained class for hearing impaired children for 6 hours each day. Michael had attended this class for 4 months, Vicki for 2 years. Instruction in the class was presented through the use of oral plus manual, or simultaneous, communication. Students participated in no mainstream activities during the school day.

Michael and Vicki were also enrolled in local day-care centers each day after their special education program ended. Michael had attended his center for 2 months; Vicki had attended her center for 3 years. They were each the only child with a diagnosed handicap at their respective centers.

Michael's day-care classroom and the hearing impaired classroom were comparable as to type of toys available and size of the play area. Both settings offered a variety of standard early childhood toys and materials. The play area in both settings was approximately 56 m2. Vicki's day-care classroom and the hearing impaired classroom were physically less comparable. Vicki's integrated classroom (37 m2) was smaller in size than her segregated classroom (56 M2), and fewer toys were available to the children in the integrated setting.

The number of children playing together in each setting was made equal each day. For example, on a day when six children participated in the morning (segregated) session, a play group of six randomly selected children would then be organized for that day's afternoon (integrated) session. Over the course of the observations, the groups ranged in size from four to seven children. The role of the adults in all settings was to supervise, but not direct, the children's free play, intervening only when someone's safety was threatened. Design A multielement baseline design was used to compare the two independent variables, integrated and segregated settings. Naturalistic observations of Michael's and Vicki's play in each setting were made as they alternated from one to the other. Percent interval data collected by setting for each category of play behavior provided a measure of the relative amounts of time spent in specific play behaviors during the observation periods. Observation System Free-play behaviors of each child were coded according to play categories taken from the work of Higginbotham, Baker, and Neill (1980). The categories were derived from the social play categories of Parten (1932) and the cognitive play categories of Smilansky 1968). Operational definitions of eight play categories, or dependent measures, are presented in Figure 1. Each time a play behavior was observed, it was simultaneously coded as belonging to both a social play category and a cognitive play category. For example, when the subject was observed building a tower of blocks with another child, his behavior was coded as being associative and constructive in nature. Each time a nonplay behavior was observed, it was coded only in the nonplay category. Procedure Initially, Michael and Vicki were observed for two 10-minute sessions per day for 4 days over a 2-week period. A total of eight observations was conducted four in each setting, for each child. Observations were conducted during indoor free-play time in each setting. The children's behaviors were coded using momentary time sampling with 10-second interval and the observers were cued by taped audio signal To control for the difference in the size of the play areas for Vicki, one observation in the integrated setting was held in a larger room (93 m2) to determine whether greater play area influenced play behavior for this child.

Several subsequent observations were also made: Two months after the initial set of observations, a series of outdoor observations of Vicki was conducted to further rule out physical aspects of the settings as the controlling variable. In this phase the investigation, Vicki was observed during outdoor free-play time on the playground in each setting. The two playgrounds were comparable in size and in type of equipment. Four months after the initial set of observations, another set of observations of both Michael and Vicki was conducted in the original indoor settings to determine stability of the findings over time.

In all phases of the investigation, observations in the hearing impaired class took place in the morning, and in the day-care centers in the afternoon. No attempt was made to counterbalance the order of the observations due to the magnitude of disruption to Michael's and Vicki's daily routine that would have resulted. To address this potential confound, three normally hearing children (ages 4-5) were observed in a day-care center for 4 days during free-play time in the morning and again in the afternoon.


Occurrence reliability was calculated for each play

category by dividing the number of observation

intervals with agreements by the number of intervals

with agreements plus disagreements, and multiplying

by 100. In categories where the behavior occurred

in less than 20% of the intervals, agreements were

counted according to a procedure outlined by Bijou,

Peterson, & Ault (1968), in which codes in adjacent s intervals are counted as agreements. The mean

percentages of agreement by play category were 95%

(range 89-100) for solitary play, 85% (range 50-100)

for parallel play, 82% (range 72- 1 0) for associative

play, 84% (range 74-94) for functional play, 99%

(range 97-100) for constructive play, 90% (range

80-100) for dramatic play, and 89% (range 75-100)

for nonplay. No cooperative play was observed. s RESULTS h

Data for each of the eight dependent measures were

analyzed for each setting for each child. Using a S. conservative data analysis approach, only graphs

showing a clear, nonoverlapping (i.e., nonintersecting)

divergence between conditions met criterion

for demonstrating significant effects. Median percent

interval values for each child across all phases of

the investigation are presented by play category in

Table 1.

Initial Observations

Nonoverlapping series of data points were obtained

for the social play categories of parallel play and

associative play for Michael, as shown in Figure 2,

and for Vicki, as shown in Figure 3. In the segregated

setting, their predominant type of social play was

parallel play; whereas, in the integrated setting, their

predominant social play was clearly associative.

A third set of clearly divergent data points was

obtained for Michael for the category of nonplay

activity, indicating that he engaged in more play

behavior and less nonplay in the integrated setting.

In contrast, Vicki's nonplay behaviors were not

influenced by setting. She engaged in nonplay for

nearly equal amounts of time in both settings.

In analyzing levels of cognitive play by setting,

it was found that Michael and Vicki engaged in a

higher percentage of functional play in the integrated

than the segregated setting. However, for both

children, the data for each setting were not clearly

divergent at all points. Functional play was the

children's predominant form of cognitive play in both


No consistent differences were found between settings in the amount of solitary play, constructive play, or dramatic play. Michael and Vicki spent little time in dramatic play in either setting. In addition, none of their play behavior in either setting was recorded in the cooperative play category. For Vicki, the size of the play area did not have an effect on type of play behavior; she played similarly in the large and small rooms in the integrated setting. Subsequent Observations Analysis of the data collected in subsequent observations replicated the finding that parallel play was functionally related to the segregated setting, whereas associative play was related to the integrated setting, as shown in Figures 2 and 3. Findings on the other dependent measures were also consistent with Michael's and Vicki's earlier data, with three exceptions. First, there was increased constructive play for Michael in the segregated setting. Second, the observation process had a reactive effect on Michael's behavior in Session 4. Spying his name on an observation form, he became angry and played alone for the entire session. After bogus forms with die names of all of the children in his class were prepared, Michael's play behavior returned to its previous state in Session 6.

Third, Vicki demonstrated an increase in dramatic play and a corresponding decrease in functional play in the segregated setting. Just before her final set of observations, Vicki was moved into a class with a group of hearing impaired children 1-2 years older than she. Her increase in dramatic play appeared to occur as a result of her modeling the dramatic play of the older children in this class. Potential Time-of-Day Confound It was found that normally hearing children did not play differently as a function of time of day. Specifically, they engaged in parallel play 5% of the time (range 0-22) and associative play 55% of the time (range 23-90) in the morning, and in parallel play 10% of the time (range 0-17) and associative play 57% of the time (range 20-97) in the afternoon. SOCIAL VALIDATION Social Comparison Three nonhandicapped, normally hearing children (ages 4-5) were observed for 4 days over a 2-week period in a day-care center. Each child was observed for 10 minutes on each day to determine average levels of parallel and associative play among hearing children. it was found that they engaged in parallel play in a range from 0-40% of the time, and in associative play from 32-73% of the time during free play. These ranges are depicted as shaded areas on the graphs in Figures 2 and 3. The graphs illustrate that Michael's and Vicki's social play behavior was consistently in the range of normative peer behavior only when they were in the integrated setting. Their behavior in the segregated setting generally fell outside of the normative range. Subjective Evaluation Three early childhood professionals viewed two 10-minute videotaped sessions of Vicki's play behavior, one in each setting. All three judges rated Vicki's play as significantly more social in the integrated setting than in the segregated setting. Two of the three judges specifically labeled her play in the integrated setting as associative in nature, and her play in the segregated setting as parallel play. DISCUSSION Considerable evidence of differential social play behavior by young hearing impaired children in integrated and segregated settings was found. Differences between settings in the control of play were consistent and predictable in determining the type of social play for both children. Nonsocial, parallel play was a function of the segregated setting, whereas the more social form of associative play was related to the integrated setting.

One possible alternative explanation of the results is that time of day was the variable controlling type of play. A search of the literature on time-of-day effects yielded studies on dependent variables such as IQ, achievement, and memory tasks. However, no studies of the effect of time of day on play behavior were found. To address this issue, additional data were collected. Although these preliminary data do not rule out morning versus afternoon effects, they suggest that time of day does not have a significant influence on children's play behavior, at least for normally developing children.

Regarding cognitive play, the results suggest that Michael's and Vicki's level of cognitive play was not consistently influenced by the social setting. One possible explanation is that level of cognitive play is a less malleable characteristic of children than level of social play and is not responsive to rapid alternations between settings. Nevertheless, the notion that the cognitive development of hearing impaired children can be enhanced through integration remains a viable one, and the possibility of long-term gains should not be ruled out.

One inconsistent finding was obtained between children. Michael engaged in a higher percentage of overall play (less nonplay) in the integrated setting, whereas Vicki engaged in a nearly equal amount of overall play in both settings. Social setting did not appear to make a difference in amount of play for Vicki, an outgoing child with relative social competence. Conversely, for Michael, a less competent child, participation in an integrated setting appeared to be related to a lower percentage of nonplay behavior. It may be that a more socially impaired child might benefit from integration with normally hearing peers in terms of amount of play as well as level of play.

If it is true that peer interactions during play contribute to normal child development, then it is important to discover the environments in which peer interactions best develop among children. This investigation is a first step in understanding the characteristics of the social environment that contribute to the development of young hearing impaired children. The next task is to examine, through component analysis, the behaviors of teachers and peers in integrated and segregated settings to determine what specific variables are related to desired outcomes. Such analysis is supported by the present results, which suggest that the integration of young hearing impaired children may have important implications for their play development and for their subsequent development in the social and cognitive domains. REFERENCES Aymard, L. L. (1977). Deaf and hearing children's play.

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Author:Esposito, Beverly G.; Koorland, Mark A.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Feb 1, 1989
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