Attention and Sociability in Preschoolers With and Without Developmental Disabilities
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Series/Report no.:2017 Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. 22nd
Children with developmental disabilities (DD) often have sociability and/or attention deficits that may negatively impact their ability to learn and develop at the same pace as their typically developing (TD) peers. The early childhood years are a key time for learning important pre-academic and social skills. Socialization and attention are essential for learning in a preschool classroom. The structure of classroom activities should promote opportunities for social interactions and on-task behavior for children with and without attention and sociability deficits in order to foster growth and learning. However, no previous research explores the influence of classroom structure on the attention and sociability of DD versus TD children. The purpose of this pilot study is to determine if classroom settings are scaffolding opportunities for sociability and attention for children with these deficits, and specifically to explore whether preschoolers with and without DD have more attention and sociability in structured or unstructured activities. Behavioral coding schemes for attention and sociability were developed and pilot tested. A second rater coded 13% of observations to achieve inter-rater reliability. 5 DD and 5 TD preschoolers were each observed 4 hours and data was collected on their attention and sociability during structured and unstructured activities. ANOVA analyses showed a statistically significant interaction between social interaction type (adult v. peer) and setting type (structured v. unstructured). More adult social interactions occurred during structured settings, while significantly more peer social interactions occurred during unstructured settings. Further regression analyses indicated that, on average, as structure increases, peer social interactions decrease. These findings suggest structured activities may hinder opportunities for peer social interaction rather than promote them. Decreased exposure to peer socialization may put children at a developmental disadvantage. Future research should explore this finding in a new context with a larger sample size to test generalizability.
Psychology (The Ohio State University Denman Undergraduate Research Forum)
Academic Major: Psychology
URO - Psychology Summer Research Fellowship
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