Nancy A. Kauffman, Moya Kinnealey; Comprehensive Social Skills Taxonomy: Development and Application. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(2):6902220030. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.013151
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OBJECTIVE. We developed a comprehensive social skills taxonomy based on archived children’s social skill goal sheets, and we applied the taxonomy to 6,897 goals of children in 6 diagnostic categories to explore patterns related to diagnosis.
METHOD. We used a grounded theory approach to code and analyze social skill goals and develop the taxonomy. Multivariate analysis of variance and Tukey post hoc honestly significant difference test were used to analyze differences in social skill needs among diagnostic groups.
RESULTS. We developed a taxonomy of 7 social skill constructs or categories, descriptions, and behavioral indicators. The 7 social skill categories were reflected across 6 diagnostic groups, and differences in social skill needs among groups were identified.
CONCLUSION. This comprehensive taxonomy of social skills can be useful in developing research-based individual, group, or institutional programming to improve social skills.
Social skills are skills that make it possible for children and adolescents to get along with others, to gain acceptance as learning and play partners, and to develop and keep friendship. Social skills include 1) social behaviors, such as maintaining eye contact, taking turns, and asking before taking another child’s play materials; 2) emotional and behavior regulation skills that make it possible for children to inhibit disruptive behavior; 3) social-cognitive processes that children utilize to solve social problems, such as attending to and interpreting social cues to understand others’ intentions; and 4) social knowledge, for example, understanding what it means to be a friend. (p. 1)
To develop a social skills taxonomy to provide a framework for social skill categories and constructs and related behavioral descriptors based on a child-generated and parent-corroborated needs assessment
To apply the social skills taxonomy to school-age children in six diagnostic categories and compare social skill patterns across diagnoses.
Tell me about some good things that happen [or go on] at your school.
Now tell me about some not-so-good things at school.
Tell me about your friends.
And now tell me about any kids who are not so friendly.
What activities do you like to participate in?
What do you think your parent [or other caregiver] is wishing we could be helping with or working on with you?
Positive and negative aspects of the school community
Current success level in attempts to make friends with peers
Personal goals for the program
Whether the social needs were in acquiring or performing social skills
The family’s view of the enrollee’s social skill needs.
Verbal Presentation includes goals addressing the need to modify use of words (content) that interfere with acceptance by others.
Nonverbal Presentation includes goals addressing the need to modify behaviors that interfere with acceptance by others.
Emotional Response includes goals addressing the need to modify emotional reactions to frustrating, new, accidental, or unexpected occurrences or when transiting from one situation to another.
Play includes goals addressing the need to modify behaviors related to playing and working with others.
Awareness of Self and Others includes goals addressing the need to improve conscious consideration and valuing of oneself and other people.
Interpersonal Relationships includes goals addressing the need to initiate and maintain effective relationships with other people.
Feelings About Self includes goals addressing the need to modify level of self-esteem.
Verbal Presentation: Children with PDD (M = 3.72) had a higher percentage (p = .000) of goals in this category than children in the other diagnostic groups. Children with Asperger syndrome (M = 2.42, Mdif = 1.170, p = .001) and ADD (M = 2.61, Mdif = 0.998, p = .001) had a significantly higher percentage of goals in this category than children with learning disabilities–verbal.
Awareness of Self and Others: Children with Asperger syndrome (M = 2.59) had a higher percentage of goals in this category than those with PDD (Mdif = 1.438, p = .000) and ADD (Mdif = 727, p = .014), who had a significantly lower percentage of goals in this category.
Emotional Response: Children with Asperger syndrome (M = 2.57) had a significantly higher percentage of goals in this category than those with autism (M = 1.42; Mdif = 1.248, p = .000) and PDD (M = 1.23; Mdif = 1.106, p = .03). Children with PDD had the lowest percentage of goals in this category of any diagnosis.
Play: Children with PDD had a significantly higher percentage of goals in this category than those with Asperger syndrome, ADD, or learning disabilities–verbal (p = .000).
Interpersonal Relationships: Children with learning disabilities–verbal (M = 3.00) and nonverbal learning disabilities (M = 3.00) had a higher percentage of goals in this category than those with other diagnoses. Children with PDD had the lowest percentage of goals in this area (M = 0.39, Mdif = 1.785, p = .000).
Nonverbal Presentation: This goal was reflected in all diagnostic groups, and there were no significant differences among diagnostic groups.
Feelings About Self: Few goals were established in this category for children of any diagnosis.
individuals with a well-established DSM–IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but who do not otherwise meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder. (p. 1)
The comprehensive social skills taxonomy described in this article includes seven social skill constructs and behavioral indicators that can be useful for broad-based planning in educational settings.
The strengths of the taxonomy include its basis in child-centered social skill goals generated by the children and their families and its education-friendly nomenclature.
The taxonomy provides a research-based framework for addressing social skills that is derived from grounded theory as well as application to children in varied diagnostic categories based on multivariate analysis. Results are discussed in light of current literature.
This taxonomy can inform broad-based or focused intervention and prevention programs to address social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues within school and community settings and to prepare students for life beyond school.
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