Date of Award

1-31-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Educational and School Psychology

First Advisor

Lynanne Black, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Becky Knickelbein, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Mark Staszkiewicz, Ed.D

Fourth Advisor

Stephen Bagnato, Ed.D, NCSP

Abstract

The development of social competence for children is critical to their ability to navigate social decision making processes; however, children with complex disabilities have many difficulties in developing social competence. In an educational environment, the optimal setting for a child to develop social competence is within the inclusive classroom. Despite this, children with complex disabilities are often excluded from regular education settings. In addition, there has been limited research to determine what teacher behaviors and practices are needed to support the development of social competence for children with complex disabilities. This study investigates the relationships among social competence, indicators of inclusive classroom quality, and level of inclusive education for children with moderate and high complexity of disability, following the implementation of inclusion strategies by teachers within regular education kindergarten and first grade classrooms across the state of Pennsylvania through the Include Me From the Start (IMFS) initiative. Findings of the study show that prior to the implementation of the IMFS initiative, children in classes with greater adult involvement in peer interactions, membership, and support for social communication, did not demonstrate greater social competence. Following implementation positive correlations existed between social competence and the classroom quality indicators of membership and support for social communication. Support for social communication was the best predictor of social competence for the entire sample. Also at post-test, for students with a moderate complexity of disability, positive correlations existed between social competence and the inclusive classroom quality indicators of membership and support for social communication. For students with a high complexity of disability, a positive correlation existed between social competence and adult involvement in peer interactions. At the completion of the IMFS program, support for social communication was the best predictor of social competence for children with a moderate complexity of disability; however, adult involvement in peer interactions was the best predictor of social competence for those with a high complexity of disability. Finally, it was determined that the level of disability did not affect social competence for children with moderate disabilities. Implications related to the field of school psychology and recommendations for further research is discussed.

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