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Lifeskills program evaluation at Mammoth Elementary School

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Title:
Lifeskills program evaluation at Mammoth Elementary School
Creator:
Tanner, Emma Moss ( author )
Language:
English
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1 electronic file (30 pages). : ;

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Subjects / Keywords:
Life skills -- Study and teaching (Elementary) ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Abstract:
This study is a program evaluation of the Life Skills Program at Mammoth Heights Elementary in the Douglas County School District. The overall goal of the Life Skills Program is to increase students’ independent and daily living skills through the teaching of communication, social-emotional skills and academic skills. Students in the Life Skills Program are divided into two groups: a high function group and a sensory group. The primary research question focuses on the effectiveness of the Program in meeting the needs of the students in the higher functioning group. Results indicated that although significant differences were not observed, the Program was generally effective in fostering progress towards social-emotional and communication for most of the students. Implications for the programming and future research are discussed.
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Thesis (Psy.D.)--University of Colorado Denver.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographic references
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
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Department of Psychology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Emma Moss Tanner.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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952103471 ( OCLC )
ocn952103471

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Full Text
LIFESKILLS PROGRAM EVALUATION
AT MAMMOTH HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
BY
EMMA MOSS TANNER
B.S. University of Colorado Boulder, 2011
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Psychology
School Psychology Program
2016


The thesis for the Doctor of Psychology by
Emma Moss Tanner
has been approved for
School Psychology Program
by
Franci Crepeau-Hobson, Chair
Colette Hohnbaum
Bryn Harris
Date: April 23, 2016


Tanner, Moss Emma (PsyD, School Psychology Program)
Life Skills Program Evaluation at Mammoth Heights Elementary School
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Franci Crepeau-Hobson.
ABSTRACT
This study is a program evaluation of the Life Skills Program at Mammoth Heights
Elementary in the Douglas County School District. The overall goal of the Life Skills Program is
to increase students independent and daily living skills through the teaching of communication,
social-emotional skills and academic skills. Students in the Life Skills Program are divided into
two groups: a high function group and a sensory group. The primary research question focuses
on the effectiveness of the Program in meeting the needs of the students in the higher functioning
group. Results indicated that although significant differences were not observed, the Program
was generally effective in fostering progress towards social-emotional and communication for
most of the students. Implications for the programming and future research are discussed.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved by: Franci Crepeau-Hobson
m


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
First, I would like to thank my capstone adviser, Dr. Franci Crepeau-Hobson, without her
insight and support this paper would not be possible.
Secondly, I would like to thank my special education team at Mammoth Heights
Elementary. Their support and help has been invaluable to me.
Lastly, I would like to thank my family for their support in this process; especially to my
mother, Margaret. My mother's unconditional love and support throughout my life and this
process was extraordinary. In addition, I would like to thank my Aunt Elizabeth, who has been
supportive and insightful as a school psychologist herself.
IV


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION.........................................1
II. LITERATURE REVIEW...................................4
III. METHODS OF RESEARCH DESIGN........................10
IV. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION.............................18
REFERENCES.............................................23
v


LIST OF TABLES
TABLE
1 MHE Life Skills Progress Monitoring Rubric..............................................15
2 Percentage of Participants Meeting Expectations.........................................18
vi


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Students Served
The Life Skills Program is implemented in the Significant Support Needs (SSN)
classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School. The SSN classroom is comprised of twelve
students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. In order to qualify for the SSN classroom at
our elementary school, the student must meet the educational eligibility criteria for an intellectual
disability. The students in the classroom have a variety of medical diagnoses in conjunction with
intellectual disabilities. Many of the students have physical disabilities in addition to cognitive
delays. Some examples of physical disabilities include fetal alcohol syndrome, autism spectrum
disorder, and cerebral palsy. The students also have a range of cognitive and adaptive abilities
within the classroom. The teacher has divided them into two student-learning groups: a higher
functioning group and a lower sensory group.
This is the third year of the implementation of the Life Skills Program within the SSN
classroom. There is a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to the Life Skills Program. The
group leaders of the Program include an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Social
Worker, School Psychologist Intern and the SSN teacher. The students are divided into groups
based on their abilities into a higher functioning group and a sensory group. The higher
functioning group includes students who have some language abilities and fine and gross motor
abilities. The students in the sensory group have significant difficulties with gross and fine motor
skills, and have severe language deficits. In general, these students are nonverbal. Each group
commences with a restorative circle, followed by teaching of a concept, a group or peer activity
and then concludes with a restorative circle.
1


Life Skills Curriculum
The group leaders of the Life Skills Program have created a unique innovative
curriculum. The overall goal of the Life Skills Program is increasing the students independence
of daily living skills through the teaching of communication, social-emotional, and academic
skills. The team has extensively researched pre-existing social skills programing for students
with intellectual disabilities; unfortunately, no published curriculum for students with intellectual
disabilities in elementary school was found. There are established programs and curricula for
students in middle school and high school; however, these curricula do not meet our needs in the
elementary school setting. Therefore, we pulled from multiple resources and modified the
curriculum to be tailored to the individual needs our students. For example, in the social-
emotional skills area, the social worker and the school psychology intern used content from
Michelle Garcia Winners Thinking About You Thinking about Me (2007) and Zones of
Regulation (Kuypers, 2011).
On Friday afternoons, the Life Skills Program includes food and meal preparation and is
facilitated by the school psychology intern. Mondays is the SSN teachers day, Tuesday is the
occupational therapists day, Wednesday is the speech therapists day, and Thursday is the Social
workers day. The overall goal of the program is to foster the growth and independence of the
students' activities of daily living.
Each week the group centers on a specific topic. For example, the third week of the Life
Skills programming we focused on Around the School. During that week, each member of the
group talked the rules and expectations for the school setting. The school psychology intern and
social worker discussed playground expectations and social skills.
2


The current evaluation of the Life Skills Program is important for many reasons. First, the
data will demonstrate that communication, academic and social emotional skills that students
have developed at expected levels of November- as well as those they havent. This will allow
the team to make modifications to the Program as appropriate. In addition, this evaluation will
encourage the team to subsequently focus their time and resources in the areas where there is not
growth for these students. This allows for the most efficient use of time and financial resources
and helps to foster accountability.
Purpose
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Life Skills program
currently implemented in the SSN classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School.
Specifically, this program evaluation will measure whether the Life Skills Program is effective
with in developing social skills, academic skills, and social emotional skills in the higher
functioning group of students.
Research Question
Is the Life Skills Program effective for the higher functioning students? (i.e., are the
students making progress toward their goals in academics, social emotional functioning, and
communication?)
3


CHAPTER II
LITERATURE REVIEW
Intellectual Disability
A student with an intellectual disability has significant limitations in both intellectual
functioning and in adaptive behavior. Students with intellectual disabilities have difficulty with
reasoning, learning and problem solving. When working with students with intellectual
disabilities there are many challenges and barriers they face. The skills and complexity of skills
are limited by the childs cognitive impairment. (Wehmeyer, Agran, Gamer, & Yeager, 2003).
Limitations are not just imposed by their cognitive impairment, but language and fine and gross
motor difficulties as well. Many teachers do not give students with intellectual disabilities
strategies for self-determination; however, students would benefit from learning self-
determination. (Wechmeyer et al., 2003). Recently many research studies were conducted on
students who have multiple disabilities and their ability to learn self-direct learning strategies.
(Wechmeyer et al., 2003). The authors believe that the student themselves were overlooked, if a
student can learn self-direction, they will need less external support (Wehmeyer et al., 2003).
Children with intellectual disabilities experience difficulties across their cognitive skill
set, which includes overall cognition and behavior difficulties. The extent of cognitive
impairments depends on the specific abilities of the child and the impact of their disability.
(Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). Many times, these children will have difficulties answering
questions quickly in the classroom and finishing work at the same rate as typically developing
children. The students working memory and processing speed, generalization of skills and
transferability of skills to other settings will be a challenge for them (Burnett & Thorsborne,
2015). For example, these children may know the safety rules in the SSN room; however, at
4


home or in a new setting they will have to be explicitly taught and retaught safety skills and
expectations. Another difficulty that is common for these children is remembering rules and
expectations due to working memory deficits (Burnett & Thorsbome, 2015). Many times these
students have to be taught multiple times the rules and expectations for home, school and
classroom, across all settings.
Students with an intellectual disability also often have behavior problems. Some behavior
problems may include elopement, physical aggression toward peers and adults, and verbal
aggression (Burnett & Thorsbome, 2015). Similar to expectations and rules that need to be
taught in school, these students' need to have explicit instruction in expected behaviors in school
vs. unexpected behaviors. (Burnett & Thorsbome, 2015). All service providers need to teach and
reteach expectation behaviors for these children.
Other special factors we had to consider due to their intellectual disability include
interfering behaviors, lack of opportunity and feedback, and lack of sensitivity to environmental
cues. Many of the students will have behaviors that interfere with learning and utilizing social
skills (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998). These students also have communication difficulties and
cognitive impairments. Each student has different levels of impairment; processing and
generalization of skills and all of these factors make it difficult to teach a group for these
students, since they have a range of skills and abilities.
Social Skills
Social skills are essential for all students in the elementary school setting, especially
students with intellectual disabilities. Social skills are important in establishing and maintaining
relationships and working through social goals (Avcioglu, 2012). However, the development of
social and emotional competence can be challenging especially for children with disabilities.
5


Research has shown that the skills for building and maintaining relationships are developmental
in nature (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). Additionally, many children gain social skills through
observing their surroundings and watching their peers, adults and siblings interact (Avcioglu,
2012, p. 345). However, this approach is not effective for children with disabilities; children with
intellectual disabilities need to be explicitly taught social skills (Avcioglu, 2012). Social skills
can be explicitly taught in conjunction with social emotional skills.
Building social-emotional skills is important and composed of many components. Sue
Roffey (2012) expands this to these basic skills including emotional skills, emotional awareness,
promoting the positive, interpersonal skills, self-awareness, and situational skills. Emotional
skills and emotional awareness is ability to identify, use and understand emotions in a positive
way in order to communicate well with others, empathize with others, overcome conflict and
challenges (Segal and Smith, 2016). Interpersonal skills are the language and communication
skills one needs to work and collaborate effectively with peers. Self-awareness is the ability to
recognize ones own emotions behaviors, and knowing ones strengths and weaknesses (Segal
and Smith, 2016). Situational skills allow an individual to tune into the emotional context
(Roffey, 2012). At this time, it is also important to examine the research associated with the
intervention of these specific social skills.
Not surprisingly, the literature examining the effectiveness of various social skills
programs with students with intellectual disabilities is quite limited. Most of the research
examined two types of interventions designed to promote social skills in students with
intellectual disabilities: mainstreaming and skills training (Brooks, Floyd, Robin, & Chan, 2015;
Freeman & Alkin 2000; Wiener 2004). Unfortunately, neither of these approaches has been
successful (Brooks et al., 2015). A different approach was used by Brooks et al. (2015). These
6


researchers investigated the association between participation in extracurricular activities and
social competence in children with an intellectual disability. They found that the students who
had more participation in unstructured activities were more likely to have better social
competence and the students had more occasions to engage in social behaviors. In addition, these
unstructured activities gave students the opportunity to engage in collaborative relationships
with peers. Currently, there is limited research on this topic of unstructured activities and social
skills; it is just emerging in the field.
In addition, many students do not have the opportunity to use their social skills in the
community. It is critical that education teams provide activities and cooperative learning
opportunities that allow for these students to practice these skills in group contexts (Elksnin &
Elksnin, 1998). These students also do not typically receive specific feedback on their social
interaction; thus, it is extremely important for educators and support staff to provide feedback.
Moreover, there are some students who have the ability to perform social skills, but dont know
the appropriate time and place to use them (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998). Educational teams must
teach the children to become sensitive to social cues and environmental cues.
While it is more difficult and a slower developmental process for students with
intellectual disabilities to build strong social emotional skills and interpersonal skills, it is
important to for the Life Skills staff to teach these concepts. Building social emotional and
interpersonal skills is important for many reasons. These skills do not develop on their own for
this population and the students need direct instruction in the area of social emotional skills. The
development of the skills will promote friendships, relationships with peers and adults and foster
independence.
7


Many published social skills curricula are designed for children with emotional
disabilities or autism, not those with intellectual disabilities. In addition, a social skills program
must have peer interaction and social integrations for students with intellectual disabilities
(Huang and Cuvo, 1997) and most existing curricula does not have this components. Thus, our
team pulled from a variety of social emotional curriculum and resources for the group. Using the
professional literature as a guide, we chose to focus on emotional skills, interpersonal skills and
self-awareness as these are the most appropriate for these students in terms of their
developmental area.
Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving is an important component in social skill success and self-determination.
At this time, problem solving is a neglected area for student with intellectual and developmental
disabilities in the educational setting and in the professional literature especially at the
elementary school level (Agran, Blanchard, Wehmeyer & Hughes, 2002). Problem solving is a
life skill that is important for not only school learning, but also integral for students to have
problem solving skills in order to have the growth and independence they need in their lives.
Teaching problem solving in conjunction with social skills and life skills is very important for
students with disabilities because these students lack the problem solving skills to solve
problems in their lives (Agran et al., 2002).
In the traditional literature, it has been assumed that individuals with mental retardation
or developmental disabilities could not benefit from instruction in problem solving-an
assumption that is both potentially erroneous and debilitating (Agran & Wehmeyer, 1999, p.
280). Emerging research demonstrates the opposite; that students with intellectual disabilities do
have the capacity to solve problems in their lives (Agran et al, 2002). This research has only
8


been conducted on adults or individuals in the community setting. The study discussed below
involves four students with autism and intellectual disabilities in the middle school setting and
examines problem-solving skills in the general education classroom.
The major findings of the study recommend that problem-solving skills should be
embedded in the classroom in an embedded functional skills approach (Agran et al., 2002, p.
286). Secondly, the study recommended, teachers utilize a systematic problem solving strategy
(Agran et al, 2002, p. 286). In addition, it was also important that each student be involved in
their own goal setting and the skills they want to learn at school. (Agran et al, 2002). As they will
be more invested in their success if they were a part of the goal setting. Problem solving skills in
conjunction with social skills teaching is important for our team to keep in mind in our life skills
group: we cant teach social skills or life skills without problem solving skills.
9


CHAPTER III
METHODS OF RESEARCH DESIGN
Description of Program Design
Lagging Skills Framework
Our curriculum and lessons are focused on the lagging skills that the SSN team decided
to target for the students in the classroom. The areas of need include: academic, fine and gross
motor, speech/communication and social-emotional skills. First, we evaluated those skills that
are important for the students to develop and what goals would be appropriate in those areas. Dr.
Robert Greenes philosophy that children do well if they can and if they have the appropriate
behavior and academic skills (Greene, 2004) was used as the context for the program design.
The lagging skills framework is referred to as a shifting cognitive set, which is a
requirement for when a person moves from one task to another (Greene, 2004). Since our
students have both cognitive and speech delays, our team put thought into what skills are
important to focus on. We worked as a team on the Mammoth Heights Elementary goal rubric
for four weeks prior to the beginning of Life Skills group. The team wanted to make sure all the
areas of need were covered and the goals were realistic and attainable for the students. As a
team, we decided to focus on our main areas of concern including differentiated academics,
fine/gross motor, functional communication, and turn taking. For social emotional skills, our
team decided to focus on turn taking and using kind words. We tried to make goals that were
attainable for all our students, who have diverse skill sets.
Positive Learning Framework (PLF)
The Life Skills group foundation is based upon the Positive Learning Framework
(PLFG), which draws upon research in resilience, restorative practices and positive youth
10


development (Mcdonald, 2009, p. 16). This framework creates a quality, positive learning
environment for the students. It is concerned with making sure the students identify the
centrality of instruction and focuses on the skills or lessons for that day, and explores strategies
to de-escalate conflict, behaviors and re-engage students back to the lesson (Mcdonald, 2009, p.
16). The Positive Learning Framework incorporates some important features including
emphasizing the positive and reflecting a deep understanding of an individual childs learning
style.
Adaptations for the Positive Learning Framework must be put into place for the students
with intellectual disabilities. The framework that helps with these accommodations and
adaptations is called Keep it Short and Simple or KISS (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). In this
framework, communication or language is simple and short. The restorative process relies
heavily on PECS, sign language and visual aids. Another important adaptation for these students
is giving wait time for processing. Many students with intellectual disabilities have poor
processing speed so it's important to give processing time or wait time for them when they are
given tasks (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). It is also important to have clear expectations or rules
for the group. Visual aids of the expectations are important. The KISS model is outlined below:
(Burnett & Thorsbourne, 2015).
KISS Process
What happened?
Who has it affected?
How do we repair the harm or damage?
What can be done to fix it?
11


A large component of the positive framework is the practice of restorative circles. A
circle is very important in building a sense of community and relationships for a group. It also
gives students chances to listen to each other and speak freely in a safe place. A sequential circle
is structured around questions or topics raised by the leader of the circle. The purpose of a
sequential circle is that students will have to listen more to their peers instead of speaking
(Restorative Circle Foundation, 2015). Circles are also important to help build rapport with
students. Traditionally, a circle occurs at the beginning of the group.
Circles themselves and by their structure convey certain important characteristics and
structure. (Costello, Wachtel and Wachtel, 2010, p. 22).
Equality-Everyone has equal seating
Safety and Trust-you see everyone in circle
Responsibility-Everyone has a chance to play a role
Facilitation-remind children who is the leader
Ownership- participants feel the circle is theirs.
Connections-everyone listens and responds.
Life Skills Program Format
In Life Skills, we have a restorative circle at the beginning and the end of the group every
time. The consistency is really important for these students and they understand the expectations.
At the beginning of the group during the circle, the team lead goes over the behavior
expectations for Life Skills. The team uses a check in and check out circle. In the beginning, the
team will talk about the norms of group and start with a few questions. Some examples include,
How are you feeling? and What are your goals for today? (Costello, Wachtel, &Wachtel,
2009). During this time, the team member will praise all that participate even if the individual
12


just is active listening. It is vitally important to talk about life skills norms and expectations in
the restorative circle. The team member and the students will collaboratively discuss the norms
and expectations in the circle. At the end of group, a check out process will take place in the
circle with similar questions and a review of the behavior expectations.
Other important considerations for the Restorative process for students with special needs
are establishing a process and easy to understand visual support (Burnett and Thorsborne, 2015).
For students with intellectual disabilities, our team uses a smaller group table, with a visual poem
of the expectations of group, and as noted above, the rules and expectations of group are repeated
both at the beginning and end of group. Visual supports are also just as important. These children
have significant verbal communication difficulties and the visual supports help cue their memory
and identify key concepts for them.
The whole team utilizes the same language when teaching these students. Some examples
include: talking about expected and unexpected behavior and language each session and
discussion of the rules and expectations of group. Practice and repetition are very important for
these students. Repeating concepts, questions and instructions are key to increase their
understanding, as often, their working memory is poor, so repetition is the only way to get the
concept across.
It is important in the Lifeskills Program to foster collaborative peer relationships in our
teaching. We can build collaborative relationships by selecting activities that build upon
students strengths, which will increase the likelihood for a positive peer interaction. For
example, one of our students in the Lifeskills program has great leadership skills in the group.
The team thus often structures activities to give him the opportunity to utilize those leadership
skills(e.g., allow him to co-lead a cooking activity).
13


Participants
The SSN classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School consists of nine elementary
students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. The students in the SSN classroom have a
variety of disabilities including Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy,
among others. Our Life Skills Program is divided into higher functioning and lower
functioning students for our social skills curriculum. The higher functioning group includes
students who have some language abilities and adequate fine and gross motor abilities. The
students in the sensory group have significant difficulties with gross and fine motor skills and
have severe language deficits. In general, these students are nonverbal. Our curriculum is
designed for the higher functioning group of students who have verbal skills and better
developed motor skill abilities. The lower functioning students engage in sensory activities or
games during this time. The evaluation will focus on the higher functioning students in the SSN
classroom.
Participant 1 is a third grade female who is eight years old. She is diagnosed with
Trisomy 9p, which is similar to Down's syndrome with gross motor and developmental delays,
low muscle tone, and distractibility. She has the educational classification of Multiple
Disabilities and Other Health Impairment..
Participant 2 is a third grade male, who is eight years old. He has a diagnosis of Downs
Syndrome and ADHD. He has an educational classification of Multiple Disabilities.
Participant 3 is a fourth grade male, who is nine years old. He is a student with the
educational identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Speech Language Disability.
14


Participant 4 is a third grade male, who is nine years old. He has significant
developmental deficits due to the fact that his birth mother consumed alcohol and drugs during
pregnancy. He is identified with the disability of Other Health Impaired.
Participant 5 is a third grade male, who is nine years old. He has no health concerns. He
is educationally identified as a student with an Intellectual Disability.
Measures
In order to monitor the students progress towards their goals, the team (the school
psychology intern, speech pathologist, social worker, SSN teacher, and occupational therapist)
created a progress-monitoring tool.
The instrument assesses three different categories of skills: academics, communication
and social/emotional. Each week, the team member responsible for that category will monitor
progress for that particular area. The Life Skills Program goal is to have the students in the high
functioning group reach the level of meet expectations for all goals.
Procedure
The speech pathologist monitored communication skill development, while the school
psychologist intern and social worker monitored the social emotional area. The teacher
monitored academics and the occupational therapist monitored the motor goals. The progress-
monitoring tool was administered in September to provide baseline data. The assessment was
then used weekly to measure the students growth and development. The tool is described in
15


Table 1
MHE Life Skills Progress Monitoring Framework 2015-2016
4C Skill area/Goal (U Unable 1 = Below Expectations 2 = Meets Expectations 3 = Exceeds Expectations
Critical Thinking Academics: I can explain my thinking Unable I cannot explain my thinking, even with adult prompting. I explain my thinking with help from a friend or adult. I independently explain my thinking to my friends.
Critical Thinking Academics: I keep trying Unable I do not try. When work gets hard I continue to try with some help from a friend or adult I independently work with my friends and continue to try when work gets hard.
Creativity Motor: I use my hands and eyes together to complete a task Unable I do not try to use my eyes and hands together to complete a task. I try to use my eyes and hands together to complete a task with some help from a friend or an adult. I independently use my eyes and hands together to complete a task.
Creativity Motor: I complete my task in the given time. Unable I do not complete my task. I complete my task with some help from a friend or an adult. I independently complete my task in OT life skills.
Communic ation Communication: I share my ideas/participate Unable I do not share my ideas. I share my ideas with help from a peer or an adult. I share my ideas all by myself.
Communic ation Communication: I listen to adults and peers Unable I do not listen to adults or peers. I listen to adults and peers with reminders. I listen to adults and peers independently.
Collaborat ion Emotional/ Social: I take turns Unable I do not take turns with peers. I take turns with peers after adult helps me. I take turns with peers all by myself.
Collaborat ion Emotional/Social: I use kind words Unable I do not use kind words with peers. I use kind words with peers after an adult helps me. I use kind words with peers all by myself.
16


We met and discussed progress made September and November of this school year. Each
of the three areas (academics, communication and social/emotional functioning), were
considered for the group as a whole and for individual students. Progress, lack of progress and
regression were all examined closely for each student in each area.
A one-sample t-test was used to examine the extent of progress that the students made
towards the goal of meeting expectations in each of the three areas (academic, communication
and social emotional). The statistical test compared the percentage of students meeting
expectations of each goal in September with the percentage of students meeting each goal in
November.
17


CHAPTER IV
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Results
Academic Goals: The data related to progress towards meeting expectations in the area
of academic goals indicates a slight downward trend. Although a one-sample t test did not
indicate significant differences between baseline data collected in September and follow up data
collected in November, the students in the Life Skills Program clearly did not make progress in
this area and some appear to have regressed (see Table 1). One explanation for the slight
decrease in progress towards academic goals is that academic demands increase throughout the
school year and students may have difficulty-keeping pace with these additional requirements. It
also is possible that these students did not reach their goals because problem solving is an area of
deficit for these students. Many of the students struggled with the goal I can explain my
thinking because many of them simply dont have the metacognitive abilities needed to do this
independently. They need verbal reminders and guided instruction to explain how they got to the
correct answer.
Communication Goals: Baseline data collected indicated that 55% of the students met
expectations for communications goals of I share my ideas and I listen to adults and peers.
In November, these percentages were 87% and 75% respectively. These results are presented in
Table 1. A one-sample t-test indicated there is no significant difference in the percentage of
students who met expectations for communication between September and November. This lack
of statistical significance maybe due in part to a small sample size and lack of power. However,
there was some growth. The teams hypothesis regarding their growth was that the students
became more familiar with the routine and verbal expectations of group. Each staff member
18


consistently followed the same routine in the group. Each group started out with a poem or song,
the material or lesson and an activity.
Social Emotional Goals: In the social emotional area, at baseline, 55% of the students
met expectations for the goal of I take turns and 62% did for the goal I use kind words.
Although differences between September and November were not statistically significant, some
improvement in the social emotional goals was notes. For example, the percentage of students
who met expectations for the goals I take turns increased from 55% to 62% (see Table 1). The
other social emotional goal stayed the same at 62%. I take turns saw some growth. This may
be due to the to the consistency of the group and the group getting to know each other. There is a
strong and friendly group dynamic and sharing is a part of the group culture.
Table 2
Percentage of Participants Meeting Expectations
Goal Name September November
Academics: I can explain my thinking. 78.00% 63.00%
Academics: I keep trying. 67.00% 63.00%
Communication: I share my ideas/participate in group discussion. 62.00% 87.00%
Communication: I listen to adults and peers. 62.00% 75.00%
Social/Emotional: I take turns 55.00% 62.00%
Social Emotional: I use kind 62% 62.00%
words
19


Discussion
Previous research indicates that children with intellectual disabilities need to be explicitly
taught social skills (Avcioglu, 2012), as well as behavioral expectations (Burnett & Thorsborne,
2015). In addition, problem- solving skills need to be taught in conjunction with social skills
teaching (Agran et al, 2002). With the professional literature in mind, the Life Skills Program
was developed to meet the academic, communication, and social skills needs of students with
intellectual disabilities in a Significant Support Needs classroom. The Life Skills Program group
leaders explicitly taught to the goals outlined by the Program rubric and they consistently
followed the same schedule. This schedule included a restorative circle, direct, explicit teaching
of a concept, a focused, concept-relevant activity, and then another restorative circle. The
consistency of both the schedule and the behavioral expectations is vitally important to
supporting the needs of students who have intellectual disabilities. In addition, restorative circles
are an important part of a positive learning environment for such students (Mcdonald, 2009). In
addition, the Life Skills Program team met consistently to examine what was working and what
was not working for students in the Program. Although statistically significant differences were
not observed between baseline and follow-up, progress was made towards communication and
social-emotional goals. Both explicit teaching and consistency of routine are factors that our
team believes contributed to students success in making progress towards the social emotional
goals and the communication goals.
Limitations
There are several limitations of this study that should be noted. First, the sample size was
quite small. Thus, these findings may not be generalized to other elementary students with
intellectual disabilities or to students with other types of disabilities. The second limitation
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relates to the lack of a standardized curriculum for Life Skills programming for students with
intellectual disabilities in the elementary setting. The Life Skill Programming in this study pulled
from existing research-based curricula for other student populations. The programming used for
the Life Skills program include social skills curriculum for students with autism and behavior
difficulties.
Future Research and Implications
At this point, the findings of this evaluation cannot be generalized for all Life Skills
programming and thus, it would be beneficial to replicate these findings in other Life Skills
programming contexts. The results of the program evaluation indicate that all participants made
progress in meeting expectations in the social emotional and communication goals. However,
no improvement and a slight decrease in progress towards the academic goals were noted. It is
hypothesized that the students did not reach these goals due to problem solving and
metacognitive deficits. Additional academic demands as the academic year progressed may also
be a factor. In addition, the two month time span of Life Skills Program implementation may
have been too short for participants to make meaningful progress. Because individuals with
intellectual disabilities learn at a slower rate than their peers, longer intervention time may result
in increased skill development and progress towards goals. Further, research suggests that
participation in unstructured activities may increase social competence and may provide
opportunities to build collaborative relationships with peers (Brooks et al., 2015). In the future, it
may be helpful to incorporate additional unstructured activities that foster students strengths and
create collaborative relationships in the Life Skills Program.
Problem solving, communication, social skills are important functional skills for these
students both inside and outside of the school setting. The Life Skills Program promotes social
21


through explicit teaching, modeling, and role-playing. The ultimate goal of the Life Skills
Program is for the students to take these functional skills and generalize them to the general
education setting and outside of school. Results of this evaluation are promising in this regard.
22


REFERENCES
Avcioglu, H. (2012). The effectiveness of the instructional programs based on
self-management strategies in acquisition of social skills by the children with I
intellectual disabilities. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 72(1), 466-477.
Agran, M., Blanchard, C., Wehmeyer, M., & Hughes, C. (2003). Increasing the problem solving
skills of students with developmental disabilities participating in general education.
Remedial and Special Education, 23(5), 279-288.
Agran, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1999J. Teaching problem solving to students with mental
retardation. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.
Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of video modeling and video self-modeling
for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptional Children,
73(3), 264-287
Brooks, B.A., Floyd, F., Robins, D.L., & Chan, W.Y. (2015). Extracurricular activities and the
development of social skills in children with intellectual and specific learning disabilities.
Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(7), 678-687.
Burnett, N and Thorsborne, M.(2015). Restorative practice and special needs. London, England:
Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Costello, B., Wachtel, J., and Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practice handbook for
teachers, disciplinarians and administrators. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for
Restorative Practices.
Costello, B., Wachtel, J., Wachtel, T. (2010). Restorative circles in schools building community
and enhancing learning. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices.
Elksnin, L. and Elksnin N. (1998). Teaching social skills to students with learning and behavior
problems. Intervention in School and Clinic, 33(3), 131-140.
Freeman S. & Alkin M. (2000). Academic and social attainments of children with mental
retardation in general education and special education settings. Remedial and Special
Education 21, 3-26.
Greene. R.W. (2008). Lost at school. New York, NY: Scribner.
Huang, W., and Cuvo, A. J. (1997). Social skills training for adults with mental retardation in
job-related settings. Behavior Modification, 21, (1) 3-44.
Kuypers, L.M., and Winner, M.G. (2011). The zones of regulation: a curriculum designed to
foster self regulation and emotional control: Santa Clara, C A: Think Social Publishing.
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Mcdonald. T. (2010). Positive learning framework: creating learning environments in which
children thrive. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19 (2). 16-20.
Restorative Practice Foundation. (2015). What is restorative practice? Retrieved from:
http://restorativeworks.net
Segal, J., M. Smith. (2016, February). Emotional Intellligence (EQ) key skills for raising
Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide/org/articles/emotional
Health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm#resources
Wiener J. (2004) Do peer relationships foster behavioral adjustment in children with learning
disabilities9 Learning Disability Quarterly, 27, 21-30.
Winner, M.G. (2007). Thinking about you, thinking about me. San Jose, CA: Think Social.
Wehmeyer, M.L, Hughes, C., Agran, M., Gamer, N., and Yeager, D. (2003). Student-directed
learning strategies to promote the progress of students with intellectual disability in
inclusive classrooms. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 7 (4). 415-428
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Full Text

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LIFESKILLS PROGRAM EVALUATION AT MAMMOTH HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BY EMMA MOSS TANNER B.S. University of Colorado Boulder, 2011 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology School Psychology Program 2016

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ii The thesis for the Doctor of Psychology by Emma Moss Tanner has been approved for School Psychology Program by Franci Crepeau Hobson, Chair Colette Hohnbaum Bryn Harris Date: April 23, 2016

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iii Tanner, Moss Emma (PsyD, School Psychology Program ) Life Skills Program Evaluation at Mammoth Heights Elementary School Thesis directed by Associate Professor Franci Crepeau Hobson. ABSTRACT This study is a program evaluation of the Life Skills Program at Mammoth Heights Elementary in the Douglas County School District. The overall goal of the Life Skills Program is to increas e students independen t and daily living skills through the teaching of communication, social emotional skills and academic skills. Students in the Life Skills Program are divided into two groups: a high function group and a sensory group. The primary research question focuses on the effectiveness of the Program in meeting the needs of the students in the higher functioning group. Results indicated that although significant differences were not observ ed, the Program was generally effective in fostering progress towards social emotional and communication for most of the students. Implications for the programming and future research are discussed. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I r ecommend its publication. Approved by : Franci Crepeau Hobson

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iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First, I would like to thank my capstone adviser, Dr. Franci Crepeau Hobson, without her insight and support this paper would not be possible. Secondly, I would like to thank my special education team at Mammoth Heights Elementary. Their support and help has been invaluable to me. Lastly, I would like to thank my family for their support in this process; especially to my mother, Margaret. My mo ther's unconditional love and support throughout my life and this process was extraordinary. In addition, I would like to thank my Aunt Elizabeth, who has been supportive and insightful as a school psychologist herself.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION 1 II. LITERATURE REVIEW ... ............... 4 III. METHODS OF RESEARCH DESIGN 10 IV. RESULTS AND D ISCUSSION .18 REFERENCES ..23

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vi LIST OF TABLES TABLE 1 MHE Life Skills Progress Monitoring Rubric ... 15 2 Percentage of Participants Meeting Expectations ...... 18

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Students Served The Life Skills Program is implemented in the Significant Support Needs (SSN) classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School. The SSN classroom is comprised of twelve students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. In order to qualify for the SSN classroom at our elementary school, the student must meet the educational eligibility criteria for an i ntellectual disability. The students in the classroom have a variety of medical diagnoses in conjunction with intellectual disabilities. Many of the students have physical disabilities in addition to cognitive delays. Some examples of physical disabilities include fetal alcohol syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy. The students also have a range of cognitive and adaptive abilities within the classroom. The teacher has divided them into two student learning groups : a higher functioning group and a lower sensory group. This is the third year of the implementation of the L ife Skills Program within the SSN classroom. There is a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to the Life Skills Program. The group leaders of the Program include an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Social Worker, Schoo l Psychologist Intern and the SSN teacher. The students are divided into groups based on their abilities into a "higher functioning" group and a "sensory group." The "higher functioning group" includes students who have some language abilities and fine and gross motor abilities. The students in the sensory group have significant difficulties with gross and fine motor skills and have severe language deficits. In general, these students are nonverbal Each group commences with a restorative circle, followed by teaching of a concept, a group or p eer activity and then concludes with a restorative circle.

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2 Life Skills Curriculum The gr oup leaders of the Life Skills P rogram have created a unique innovative curriculum. The overall goal of the Life Skills Program is increasing the students independence of daily living skills through the teaching of communication, social emotional and academic skills. The team has extensively researched pre existing social skills progra ming for students with intellectual disabilities; unfortunately no published curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities in elementary school was found. There are established programs and curricul a for students in middle school and high school; however, th ese curricul a do not meet our needs in the elementary school setting. Therefore, we pulled from multiple resources and modified the curriculum to be tailored to the individual needs our students. For example, in the social emotional skills area the social worker and the school psychology intern used c ontent from Michelle Garcia Winner's Thinking About You Thinking about Me (2007) and Zones of Regulation (Kuypers, 2011). On Friday afternoons, the Life Skills Program includes food and meal preparation and is facil itated by the school psychology intern. Mondays is the SSN teacher's day, Tuesday is the occupational t he rapist's day, Wednesday is the s peech therapist 's d ay, and Thursday is the Social w orker's day. The overall goal of the p rog ram is to foster the growth and independence of the students' activities of daily living. Each week the group centers on a specific topic. For example, the third week of the Lif e Skills programming we focused on Around the Schoo l." During that week, ea c h member of the group talked the rules and expectations for the school setting The school psychology intern and social worker discussed playground expectations and social skills.

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3 The current evaluation of the Life Skills Program is important for many rea sons. First, the data will demonstrate that communication academic and social emotional skills that students have developed at expected levels of November as well as those they haven't. This will allow the team to make modifications to the Program as appropriate. In addition, this evaluat ion will encourage the team to subsequently f ocus their time and resources in the areas where there is not growth for these students. This allows for the most efficient use of ti me and financial resource s and helps to foster accountability. Purpose The purpose of this study i s to evaluate the effectiveness of the Life Skills program currently implemented in the SSN classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School. Specifically, this program evaluation will m easure whether the Life Skills Program is effective with in developing so cial skills, academic skills and social emotional skills in the higher functioning group of students. Research Question Is the Life Skills Program effective for the higher functioning students? (i.e., are the students making progress toward their goals i n academics, social emotional functioning and communication ?)

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4 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW Intellectual Disability A student with an intellectual disability has significant limitation s in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior. Students with intellectual disabilities have difficulty with reasoning, learning and problem solving. When working with students with intellectual disabilities there are many challenges and barriers they face. The skills and complexi ty of skills are limited by the child's cognitive impairment. (Wehmeyer, Agran, Garner & Yeager, 2003). Limitations are not just imposed by their cognitive impairment, but language and fine and gross motor difficulties as well. Many teachers do not give students with intellectual disabilit ies strategies for self determination; however studen ts would benefit from learning self determination. (Wechmeyer et al 2003). Recently many research studies were conducted on students who have multiple disabilities and their ability to learn self direct learning strategies. (Wechmeyer et al., 2003). Th e authors believe that the student themselves were overlooked, if a student can learn self direction, they will need less external support (Wehmeyer et al., 2003). Children with intellectual disabilities experience difficulties across their cognitive skil l set which include s overall cognition and behavior difficulties. The extent of c ognitive impairments depend s on the specific abilities of the child and the impact of their disability. (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). Many times these children will have d ifficulties answering questions quickly in the classroom and finishing work at the same rate as typically developing children. The students' working memory and processing speed, generalization of skills and transferability of skills to other settin gs will be a challenge for them (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). For example, these children may know the safety rules in the SSN room ; h owever, at

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5 home or in a new setting they will have to be explicitly taught and retaught safety skills and expectations. Another difficulty that is common for these children is remembering rules and expectations due to working memory deficits (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). Many times these students have to be taught multiple times the rules and expectations for home school and clas sroom, across all settings. Students with an intellectual disability also often have behavior problems. Some behavior problems may include elopement, physical aggression toward peers and adults, and verbal aggression (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). Simila r to expectations and rules that need to be taught in school, these students' need to have explicit instruction in expected behaviors in school vs. unexpected behaviors. (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). All service providers need to teach and reteach expectat ion behaviors for these children. Other special factors we had to consider due to their intellectual disability include interfering behaviors, lack of opportunity and feedback, and lack of sensitivity to environmental cues. Many of the students will have b ehaviors that interfere with learning and utilizing social skills (Elksnin & Elksnin 1998). These students also have communication difficulties and cognitive impairments. Each student has different levels of impairment; processing and generalization of sk ills and all of these factors make it difficult to teach a group for these students, since they have a range of skills and abilities. Social Skills Social skills are essential for all students in the elementary school setting, especially students with intellectual disabilities. Socia l skills are important in establishing and maintaining relationships and working through social goals (Avcioglu, 2012). However, t he development of social and emotiona l competence can be challenging especially for children with disabilities.

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6 Research has shown that th e skills for building and maintaining relationships are developmental in natur e (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015) Add itionally, m any children gain social skills through "observing their surroundings and watching their peers, adults and siblings interact" (Avcioglu, 2012, p. 345). However, this approach is not effective for children with disabilities; children with intellectual disabilities need to be explicitly taught social skills (Avcioglu, 2012). Social skills can be explicitly taught in conjunction with social emotional skills. Building social emotional skills is important and composed of many components Sue Roffey (2012) expands this to these basic skills including emotional skills, emotional awareness, promoting the positive, interpersonal skills, self aw areness, and situational skills Emotional skills and emotional awareness is ability to identify, use and understand emotions in a positive way in order to communicate well with others, empath ize with others, overcome conflict and challenges (Segal and Smith, 2016) Interpersonal skills are the language and communication skills one needs to work and collaborate effectively with peers. Self awareness is the ability to recognize one's own emotion s behaviors, and knowing one's strengths and weaknesses (Segal and Smith, 2016). Situational skills allow an individual to tune into the emotion al context (Ro ffey 2012). At this time, it is also important to examine the research associated with the intervention of these specific social skills. Not surprisingly, the literature examining the effectiveness of various social skills programs with students with intellectual disabilities is quite limited. Most of the research examined two types of interven tions designed to promote social skills in students with intellectual disabilities: mainstreaming and skills training (Brooks, Floyd, Robin & Chan, 2015 ; Freeman & Alkin 2000 ; Wiener 2004 ) Unfortunately neither of these approaches has been successful (Brooks et al 2015). A differe nt approach was used by Brooks et al (2015). These

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7 researchers investigated the association between participation in extracurricula r activities and social competence in children with an intellectual disability. They found that the students who had more participation in unstructured activities were more likely to have better social competence and the students had more occasions to enga ge in social behaviors. In addition, these unstructured activities gave students' the opportunity to engage in collaborative relationships with peers. Currently, there is limited research on this topic of unstructured activities and social skills; it is just emerging in the field. In addition, m any students do not have the opportunity to use their social skills in the community. It is critical that educ ation teams provide activities and cooperative learning opportunities that allow for these students to practice these skills in group contexts (Elksnin & Elksnin 1998). These students also do not typically receive specific feedback on their social interac tion; thus, it is extremely important for educators and support staff to provide feedback. Moreover, t here are some students who have the ability to perform social skills, but don't know the appropriate time and place to use them (Elksnin & Elksnin, 1998). Educational teams must teach the children to become sensitive to social cues and environmental cues. While it is more difficult and a slower developmental process for students with intellectual disabilities to build strong social emotional skills and inte rpersonal skills, it is important to for the Life Skills staff to teach these concepts. Building social emotional and interpersonal skills is important for many reasons. These skills do not develop on their own for this population and the students need dir ect instruction in the area of social emotional skills. The development of the skills will promote friendships, relationships with peers and adults and foster independence.

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8 Many published social skills curricula are designed for children with emotional di sabilities or autism, not those with intellectual disabilities. In addition, a social skills program must have peer interaction and social integrations for students with intellectual disabilities (Huang and Cuvo, 1997) and most existing curricula does not have this components. Thus, our team pulled from a variety of social emotional curriculum and resources for the group. Using the professional literature as a guide, we chose to focus on emotional skills, interpersonal skills and self awareness as these are the most appropriate for these students in terms of their developmental area. Problem Solving Skills Problem s olving is an important component in social skill success and self determination. At this time, problem solving is a neglected area for student with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the educational setting and in the professional literature especially at the elementary school level (Agran, Blanchard, Wehmeyer & Hughes, 2002). Problem solving is a life skill that is important for not only school learning, but also integral for stu dents to have problem solving skills in order to have the growth and independence they need in their lives. Teaching problem solving in conjunction with social skills and life skills is very important for students with disabilities because these students lack the problem solving skills to solve problems in their lives (Agran et al., 2002). In the traditional literature, it has been "assumed that individuals with mental retardation or developmental disabilities could not benefit from instruction in proble m solving an assumption that is both potentially erroneous and debilitating" (Agran & Wehmeyer, 1999, p 280). Emerging research demonstrates the opposite; that students with intellectual disabilities do have the capacity to solve problems in their lives ( Agran et al, 2002). This research has only

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9 been conducted on adults or individuals in the community setting. The study discussed below involves four students with autism and intellectual disabilities in the middle scho ol setting and examines problem solvi ng skills in the general education classroom. The major findings of t he study recommend that problem solving skills should be "embedded in the classroom in an embedded functional skills a pproach" (Agran et al., 2002, p 286). S econdly, the study recommended, "teacher s utilize a systematic problem solving strategy" (Agran et al, 2002, p 286). In addition, it was also important that each student be involved in their own goal setting and the skills they want to learn at school. (Agran et al, 2002). As they will be more invested in their success if they were a part of the goal setting. Problem solving skills in conjunction with social skills teaching is important for our team to keep in mind in our life skills group : w e can't teach social skills or li fe skills without problem solving skills

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10 CHAPTER III METHODS OF RESEARCH DESIGN Description of Program Design Lagging Skills Framework Ou r curriculum and lessons are focus ed on the lagging skills that the SSN team decided to target for the students in the classroom. The areas of need include: academic, fine and gross motor, speech/communication and social emotional skills. First, we evaluated those skills that are important for the students to develop and what goals would be appropriate in those areas D r. Robert Greene's philosophy that children do well if they can and if they have the appropriate behavior and academic skills (Greene, 2004) was used as the context for the p rogram design The lagging skill s framework is referred to as a shifting cognitive set, which is a requirement for when a person moves from one task to another (Greene, 2004). Since our students have both cognitive and speech delays, our team put thought into what skills are important to focus on. We worked as a team on the Mammoth Heights Elementary g oal rubric for four weeks prior to the beginning of Life Skills group. The team wanted to make sure all the areas of need were covered and the goals were realistic and attainable for the students. As a team, we decided to focus on our main areas of concern including differentiated academics, fine/gross motor, functional communication, and turn taking. For social emotional skills, our team decided to focus o n turn taking and using kind words. We tried to make goals that were attainable for all our students, who have diverse skill sets. Po sitive Learning Framework (PLF) The Life Skills group foundation is based upon the Positive Learning Framework (PLFG), whic h draws "upon research in resilience, restorative practices and positive youth

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11 development" (Mcdonald, 2009, p. 16). This framework creates a quality, positive learning environment for the students. It is concerned with making sure the students "identify t he centrality of instruction and focuses on the skills or lessons for that day, and explores strategies to de escalate conflict, behaviors and re engage students back to the lesson" (Mcdonald, 2009, p. 16). The Positive Learning Framework incorporates som e important features including emphasizing the positive and reflecting a deep understanding of an individual child's learning style. Adaptations for the Positive Learning Framework must be put into place for the students with intellectual disabilities. T he framework that helps with these accommodations and adaptations is called Keep it Short and Simple or KISS (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). In this framework, communication or language is simple and short. The restorative process relies heavily on PECS, sig n language and visual aids. Another important adaptation for these students is giving wait time for processing. Many students with intellectual disabilities have poor processing speed so it's important to give processing time or wait time for them when the y are given tasks (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015). It is also important to have clear expectations or rules for the group. Visual aids of the expectations are important. The KISS model is outlined below: (Burnett & Thorsbourne, 2015) KISS Process What h appened? Who has it affected? How do we repair the harm or damage? What can be done to fix it?

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12 A large component of the positive framework is the practice of restorative circles. A circle is very important in building a sense of community and relationships for a group. It also gives students chances to listen to each other and speak freely in a saf e place A sequential circle is structured around questions or topics raised by the leader of the circle. The purpose of a sequential circle is that students will have to listen more to their peers instead of speaking (Restorative Circle Foundation, 2015) Circles are also important to help build rapport with students. Traditionally, a circle occurs at the beginning of the group. Circles themselves and by their structure convey certain important characteristics and structure (Costello, Wachtel and Wachte l, 2010, p. 22) Equality Everyone has equal seating Safety and Trust you see everyone in circle Responsibility Everyone has a chance to play a role Facilitation remind children who is the leader Ownership participants feel the circle is theirs. Connectio ns everyone listens and responds. Life Skills Program Format In Life Skills, we have a restorative circle at the beginning and the end of the group every time. The consistency is really important for these students and they understand the expectations. At the beginning of the group during the circle, the team lead goes over the behavior expectations for Life Skills. The team uses a check in and check out circle. In the beginning, the team will talk about the norms of group and start with a few questions. Some examples include H ow are you feeling? and What are your goals for today? (Costello, Wachtel &Wachtel, 2009). During this time, the team member will praise all that participate even if the individual

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13 just is active listening. It is vitally important to talk about life skills norms and expectations in the restorative circle. The team member and the students will collabora tively discuss the norms and expectations in the circle. At the end of group, a check out process will take place in the circle with similar questions and a review of the behavior expectations Other important considerations for the Restorative process for students with special needs are establishing a process and easy to understand visual support (Burnett and Thorsborne, 2015). For students with intellectual disabilities, our team uses a smaller group table, with a visual poem of the expectations of group, and as noted above, the rules and expectations of group are repeated both at the beginning and end of group. Visual supports are also just as important. These children have significant verbal communication difficulties and the visual supports help cue the ir memory and identify key concepts for them. The whole team utilizes the same language when teaching these students. Some examples include : talking about expected and unexpected behavior and language each session and discussion of the rules and expectati ons of group. Practice and repetition are very important for these students. Repeating concepts, questions and instructions are key to increase their understanding as often, their working memory is poor, so repetition is the only way to get the concept ac ross. It is important in the Lifeskills Program to foster collaborative peer relationships in our teaching. We can build collaborative relationships by selecting activities that build upon student's strengths, which will increase the likelihood for a posi tive peer interaction. For example, one of our students in the Lifeskills program has great leadership skills in the group The team thus often structure s activities to give him the opportunity to utilize those leadership skills (e.g., allow him to co lead a cooking activity )

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14 Participants The SSN classroom at Mammoth Heights Elementary School consists of nine elementary students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. The students i n the SSN classroom have a variety of disabilities including Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and Cerebral Pa lsy, among other s. Our Life Skills Program is divided into higher functioning and lower functioning students for our social skills curriculum The "higher functioning group" includes students who have some language abilities and adequate fine and gross motor abilities. The students in the sensory group have significant difficulties with gross and fine motor skills and have severe language deficits. In general, these students are nonverbal Our curriculum is designed f or the higher functioning group of students who ha ve verbal s kills and better developed moto r skill abilities. The lower functioning students engage in sensory activities or games during this time. The evaluation will focus on the higher functioning stu dents in the SSN classroom. Pa rticipant 1 is a third grade female who is eight years old. She is diagnosed with Trisomy 9p which is similar to Down's syndrome with gross motor and developmental delays, low muscle tone and distractibility. She has the educational classification of Mul tiple Disabilities and Other Health Impairment Participant 2 is a third grade male, who is eight years old. He has a diagnosis of Down's S yndrome and ADHD. He has an educational classifi cation of Multiple Disabilities. Participant 3 is a fourth grade male, who is nine years old. He is a student with the educational identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Speech Language Disability

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15 Participant 4 is a third grade male, who is nine years old. He has significant developmental deficits due to the fact that his birth mother consumed alcohol and drugs during pregnancy. He is identified with the disability of Other Health Impaired. Participant 5 is a third grade male, who is nine years old. He has no health concerns. He is educationally identified as a student with an Inte llectual Di sability Measures In order to monitor the students' progress towards their goals, the team ( the school psychology intern, speech pathologist, social worker, SSN teacher, and occupational therapist) created a progress monitoring tool. The instrument assesses three different categor ies of skills: academics, communication and social/emotional. Ea ch week, the team member responsible for that category will monitor progress for that particular area. The Life Skills Program goal is to have the students in the high functioning group reach the level of "meet expectations" for all goals. Procedure The speech pathologist monitored communication skill development, while the school psychologist intern and social worker monitor ed the social emoti onal area. The teacher monitored academics and the occupational therapist monitored the motor goals. The progres s monitoring tool was administered in September to provide baseline data. The assessment was then used weekly to measure the students' growth and development. The tool is described in

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16 Table 1 MHE Life Skills Progress Monitoring Framework 2015 2016 4C Skill area/Goal 0= Unable 1 = Below Expectations 2 = Meets Expectations 3 = Exceeds Expectations Critical Thinking Academics: I can explain my thinking Unable I cannot explain my thinking, even with adult prompting. I explain my thinking with help from a friend or adult. I independently explain my thinking to my friends. Critical Thinking Academics: I keep trying Unable I do not try. When work gets hard I continue to try with some help from a friend or adult I independently work with my friends and continue to try when work gets hard. Creativity Motor: I use my hands and eyes together to complete a task Unable I do not try to use my eyes and hands together to complete a task. I try to use my eyes and hands together to complete a task with some help from a friend or an adult. I independently use my eyes and hands together to complete a task. Creativity Motor: I complete my task in the given time. Unable I do not complete my task. I complete my task with some help from a friend or an adult. I independ ently complete my task in OT life skills. Communic ation Communication: I share my ideas/participate Unable I do not share my ideas. I share my ideas with help from a peer or an adult. I share my ideas all by myself. Communic ation Communication: I listen to adults and peers Unable I do not listen to adults or peers. I listen to adults and peers with reminders. I listen to adults and peers independently. Collaborat ion Emotional/ Social: I take turns Unable I do not take turns with peers. I take turns with peers after adult helps me. I take turns with peers all by myself. Collaborat ion Emotional/Social: I use kind words Unable I do not use kind words with peers. I use kind words with peers after an adult helps me. I use kind words with peers all by myself.

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17 We met and discussed progress made September and November of this school year. Each of the three areas ( academics, communication a nd social/emotional functioning), were considered for the group as a whole and for individual students. Progress lack of progress and regression were all examined closely for each student in each area. A o ne sample t test was used to examine the extent of progress that the student s made towards the goal of meeting expectations in each of the three areas (academic, c ommunication and social emotional). The statistical test compared the percentage of students' meeting expectations of each goal in September with the percentage of students meeting each goal in November.

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18 CHAPTER I V RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Results Academic Goals: The data related to progress towards meeting expectations in the area of academic goals indicates a slight downward tren d. Although a one sample t test did not indicate significant differences between baseline data collected in Sept ember and follow up data collected in November, the students in the Life Skills Program clearly did not make progress in this area and some appear to have regressed (see Table 1) One explanation for the slight decrease in progress towards academic goals i s that academic demands increase throughout the school year and students may have difficulty keeping pace with these additional requirements It also is possible that these students did not reach their goals because problem solving is an area of deficit for these students. Many of the students' struggled with the goal "I can explain my thinking" because many of them simply don't have the metac ognitive abilities needed to do this independently. They need verbal reminders and guided instruction to explain how they got to the correct answer. Communication Goals: Baseline data collected indicated that 55% of the students met expectations for communications goals of "I share my ideas" and "I listen to adults and peers." In November, these percentages were 87% and 75% respectively. These results are presented in Table 1. A one sample t test indicated there is no significant difference in th e percentage of students' who met expectations for communication between September and November. This lack of statistical significance maybe due in part to a small sample size and lack of power. However, there was some growth. The team's hypothesis regardi ng their growth was that the students' became more familiar with the routine and verbal expectations of group. Each staff member

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19 consistently followed the same routine in the group. Each group started out with a poem or song, the material or lesson and an activity. Social Emotional Goals: In the social emotional area, at baseline, 55 % of the students met expectations for the goal of "I take turns" and 62 % did for the goal "I use kind words". Although differences between September and November were not stat istically significant, some improvement in the social emotional goals was notes. For example, the percentage of students who met expectations for the goals "I take turns" increased from 55% to 62% (see Table 1) The other social emotional goal stayed the s ame at 62%. "I take turns" saw some growth This may be due to the to the consistency of the group and the group getting to know each other. There is a strong and friendly group dynamic and sharing is a part of the group culture. Table 2 Percentage of Participants Meeting Expectations Goal Name September November Academics : I can explain my thinking. 78.00% 63.00% Academics: I keep trying. 67.00% 63.00% Communication: I share my ideas/participate in group discussion. 62.00% 87.00% Communication: I listen to adults and peers. 62.00% 75.00% Social/Emotional: I take turns 55.00% 62.00% Social Emotional: I use kind words 62% 62.00%

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20 Discussion Previous research indicates that children with intellectual disabilities need to be explicitly taught social skills (Avcioglu, 2012) as well as behavioral expectations (Burnett & Thorsborne, 2015) In addition, problem solving skills need to be taught in conjunct ion with social skills te aching (Agran et al 2002 ). With the professional literature in mind, the Life Skills P rogram was developed to meet the academic, communication, and social skills needs of students with intellectual disabilities in a Significant Support Needs classroom. The Life Skills Program group leaders explicitly t aught to the goals outlined by the Program rubric and they consistently follow ed the same schedule This schedule included a restorative circle, direct, explicit teaching of a concept, a focused, concept relevant activity and then ano ther restorative circle. The consistency of both the schedule and the behavioral expectations is vitally important to supporting the needs of students who have intellectual disabilities. In addition, r estorative circles are an important part of a positive learning environment for such students ( Mcdonald, 2009 ). In addition, the Life Skills Program team met consistently to examine what was working and what was not working for students in the Program. Although statistically significant differences were not observed between baseline and follow up, progress was made towards communication and social emotional goals. Both explicit teaching and consistency of routine are factors that our team believes contri bute d to students' success in making progress towards the social emotional goals and the communication goals. Limitations There are s everal limitations of this study that should be noted First, the sample size was quite small. Thus, these findings may not be generalized to other elementary students with intellectual disabilities or to students with other types of disabilities. The second l imitation

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21 relates to the lack of a standardized curriculum for Life Skills programming for students with intellectual disabilitie s in the elementary setting. The Life Skill Programming in this study pulled from existing research based curricula for other student pop ulations. The programming used for the Life Skills program include social skills curriculum for students with autism and behavior difficulties. Future Research and Implications At this point, the findings of this evaluation cannot be generalized f or all Life Skills programming and thus, i t would be beneficial to replicate these findings i n other Life Skills programming contexts. The results of the program evaluation indicate that all participants made progress in "meeting expectations in the social emotional and communication goals. However, no improvement and a slight decrease in progress towards the academic goals w ere noted. It i s hypothesized that the students did not reach these goals due to problem solving and metacognitive defi cits. Additional academic demands as the academic year progressed may also be a factor. In addition, the two month time span of Life Skills Program implementation may have been too short for participants to make meaningful progress. Because individuals wit h intellectual disabilities learn at a slower rate than their peers, longer intervention time may result in increased skill development and progress towards goals. Further, research suggests that participation in unstructured activities may increase social competence and may provide opportunities to build collaborative relationships with peers (Brooks et al., 2015). In the future, it may be helpful to incorporate additional unstructured activities that foster students' strengths and create collaborative rel ationships in the Life Skills Program. Problem solving, communication, social skills are important functional skills for these students both inside and outside of the school setting. The Life Skills Program promotes social

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22 through explicit teaching, model ing, and role playing The ultimate goal of the Life Skills Program is for the students' to take these functional skills and generalize them to the general education setting and outside of school. Results of this evaluation are promising in this regard.

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23 REFERENCES Avcioglu, H. ( 2012 ). The effectiveness of the instructional programs based on self management strategies in acquisition of social skills by the children with I intellectual disabilities. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice 12 (1), 466 477. Agran, M., Blanchard, C., Wehmeyer, M., & Hughes, C. ( 2003 ). Increasing the problem solving skills of students with developmental disabilities participating in general education. Remedial and Special Education, 23 (5), 279 288 Agran, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1999 ). Teaching problem solving to students with mental retardation Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation. Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta analysis of video modeling and video self modeling for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptional Children, 73 (3), 264 287 Brooks, B.A., Floyd, F., Robins, D.L., & Chan, W.Y. (2015). Extracurricular activities and the development of social skills in children with intellectual and specific learning disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 59 (7), 678 687. Burnett, N and Thorsborne, M.(2015). Restorative practice and special needs. London England : Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Costello, B., Wachtel, J., and Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practice handbook for teachers, disciplinarians and administrators Bethlehem, PA : International Institute for Restorative Practices. Costello, B., Wachtel, J., Wachtel, T. (2010). Restorative circles in schools building community and enhancing learning. Bethlehem, PA : International Institute for Restorative Practices. Elksnin, L. and Elksnin N ( 1998 ). Teaching social skills to students with learning and behavior problems. Inter vention in School and Clinic 33 (3), 131 140. Freeman S. & Alkin M. ( 2000 ) Academic and social attainments of children with mental retardation in general education and special education settings Remedial and Special Education 21 3 26 Greene. R.W. (2008). Lost at school. New York NY: Scribner. Huang, W., and Cuvo, A. J. (1997). Social skills training for ad ults with mental retardation in job related settings. B ehavior Modification 21, (1) 3 44. Kuypers, L.M., and Winner M.G (2011). The zones of regulation: a curriculum designed to foster self regulation and emotional control: Santa Clara, CA : Think Social Publishing.

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24 Mcdonald. T. ( 2010 ). Positive learning framework: creating learning environments in which children thrive Reclaiming Children and Youth, 19 (2). 16 20. Restorative Practice Foundation. (2015). What is restorative practice? Retrieved from: http://restorativeworks.net Segal, J., M. Smith. (2016, February). Emotional Intelllige nce (EQ) k ey skills for raising Emotional Intelligence Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide/org/articles/emotional Health/emotional intelligence eq.htm#resources Wiener J. ( 2004 ) Do peer relationships foster behavioral adjustment in children with learning disabilities? Learning Disability Quarterly 27 21 30 Winner, M.G. (2007). Thinking about you, thinking about me San Jose, CA: Think Social. Wehmeyer, M.L, Hughes, C., Agran, M., Garner, N., and Yeager, D. (2003). Student directed learning strategies to promote the progress of students with intellectual disability in inclusive classrooms. I nternational Journal of Inclusive Education 7 (4). 415 428