A critical finding in the fields of child development and early intervention is that the establishment of relationships with peers is an important process resulting in various developmental benefits. While many studies have indicated that children with disabilities exhibit deficits in social interaction skills, a relatively small number of studies have focused on the social interactions between preschool children with visual impairments and their sighted peers.
A longitudinal, observational design was used to examine the effects of integration, in combination with a strategy to foster interaction, on the social interaction patterns of 3- and 4-year old children with and without visual impairments over a period of five months. Two classes of the Child Development Center [CDC] were involved in the study. Videotapes of each of the classes during free-play periods allowed comparisons among three groups of children [a] children with visual impairments in the integrated setting, [b] children with visual impairments in the self-contained setting, and [c] children with sight in the integrated setting.
A total of 26 hours of video data, across a 5-month period, were available for analysis. Observational data indicated that while children with visual impairments interacted with peers, a number of differences among the three groups of children are worth noting. Children with visual impairments in the selfcontained class spent approximately three times as much time in solitary play as children with visual impairments or sighted children in the integrated class. Both groups of children in the integrated class, those with visual impairments and those with sight: [a] spent a greater proportion of time interacting with peers than with adults, [b] spent less time in solitary play, and [c] were more likely to initiate interactions with peers than with adults.
Differences were also noted across time. During month one, children with sight spent 22% of their time interacting as compared with 4% for children with visual impairments in the integrated class and 1% for children with visual impairments in the self-contained class. Following the implementation of the strategy to facilitate interaction in the integrated class, rates of interaction in the integrated class increased. Children with sight spent 29% of their time interacting as compared with 22% for children with visual impairments in the integrated class and 7% for children with visual impairments in the self-contained class.
Findings are interpreted cautiously in light of the number of children who participated in the study.
D'Allura, T. (2002). Enhancing the social interaction skills of preschoolers with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 98 (8), 576-584.
D'Allura, T., & Lang, M. (1998, April). Enhancing the social interaction skills of preschoolers with visual impairment. Paper presented at the annual convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Minneapolis, MN.
Investigators: Tana D'Allura, PhD, Principal Investigator
Susan Russello, MA, Research Assistant
Gina Cardinali, MA, Research Assistant
Funded By: Funded in part by the Eisman Foundation
Project Period: March 1995 through September 1998