Social Skills Training for Withdrawn Unpopular Children With Physical Disabilities: A Preliminary Evaluation

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The development and evaluation of social skills programs for children with physical disabilities has received little attention. A 10-week, group program for elementary school children with physical disabilities is described that used a combination of social learning and cognitive-behavioral methods. The program targeted 5 basic skills: interpersonal problem solving, verbal and nonverbal communication, initiating interactions with peers, conversational skills, and coping with difficult others. A pre-post evaluation involving 11 withdrawn unpopular children with cerebral palsy or spina bifida showed a significant improvement in their perception of their own social acceptance, but this finding was not maintained at six months. This indicates the importance of providing sufficient opportunities for children to practice newly learned skills in natural environments and the need for interventions aimed at changing the perceptions of classmates. A significant delayed reduction in feelings of loneliness also was found, which indicates the importance of including a measure of loneliness in future studies.

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