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Mutual Liking, Enjoyment, and Shared Interactions in the Closest Relationships between Children with Developmental Disabilities and Peers in Inclusive School Settings

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Typically analysis of the characteristics of friendships is made on the basis of nomination of a friend or best friend, with the assumption that this nomination reflects actual friendship. While it is possible that this assumption may be valid in typically developing children, this may not be the case for relationships for students with developmental disabilities. The relationships of 16 students with developmental disabilities in grades 1 through 6 and their three closest peers were examined to determine if dyads engaged in behaviors associated with defining components of friendship (i.e. shared interaction, mutual enjoyment, mutual liking) from literature on typically developing children. Interviews were conducted with target students, as well as with their peers, parents and teachers. Interview data indicated that the majority of dyads engaged at least sometimes in behaviors related to each of the defining components of friendship and reported behaviors associated with these components were typically reported as mutual. Additionally, voluntary peer nomination of friends at the beginning of interviews corresponded well with the presence of characteristics of friendship but this was less so when peers needed to be asked directly whether a child with a disability was a friend.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Mutual Liking, Enjoyment, and Shared Interactions
in the Closest Relationships between Children
with Developmental Disabilities and Peers
in Inclusive School Settings
Amanda A. Webster &Mark Carter
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012
Abstract Typically analysis of the characteristics of friendships is made on the basis
of nomination of a friend or best friend, with the assumption that this nomination
reflects actual friendship. While it is possible that this assumption may be valid in
typically developing children, this may not be the case for relationships for students
with developmental disabilities. The relationships of 16 students with developmental
disabilities in grades 1 through 6 and their three closest peers were examined to
determine if dyads engaged in behaviors associated with defining components of
friendship (i.e. shared interaction, mutual enjoyment, mutual liking) from literature
on typically developing children. Interviews were conducted with target students, as
well as with their peers, parents and teachers. Interview data indicated that the
majority of dyads engaged at least sometimes in behaviors related to each of the
defining components of friendship and reported behaviors associated with these
components were typically reported as mutual. Additionally, voluntary peer nomina-
tion of friends at the beginning of interviews corresponded well with the presence of
J Dev Phys Disabil
DOI 10.1007/s10882-012-9319-8
Author Note This paper was completed in association with a wider research project as a part of the
requirements of a PhD by the first author and under the supervision of the second author. Additionally
we certify that all ethics procedures have been followed and the research received full ethics approval from
both the university and the Department of Education where the research was conducted. Finally we certify
that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is significantly different from other manuscripts
that have been submitted elsewhere. Wecertify that this project did not receive any external funding and no
restrictions have been imposed on free access to, or publication of, the research data. The authors have no
financial or non-financial conflict of interests with respect to this manuscript.
A. A. Webster (*)
Autism Centre of Excellence, Griffith University, Mt. Gravatt Campus, 176 Messines Ridge Rd., Mt.
Gravatt, QLD 4122, Australia
e-mail: a.webster@griffith.edu.au
M. Carter
Macquarie Special Education Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
e-mail: mark.carter.mq@gmail.com
characteristics of friendship but this was less so when peers needed to be asked
directly whether a child with a disability was a friend.
Keywords Friendships .Children .Developmental disabilities .Peers .Inclusive
schools
Researchers generally emphasize that the most important of all peer social relation-
ships is friendship (e.g., Bukowski et al. 1996; Newcomb and Bagwell 1996).
Friendship has been conceptualized as a bond between two individuals that is
characterized by shared interaction, mutual enjoyment, and mutual liking, and is
stable across time (Howes 1983). Friendship is inherently voluntary (Ladd 1988) and
is by definition a reciprocal construct (Furman 1984) that will cease to exist if either
party withdraws (Asher et al. 1996). Thus, the dimensions of friendship reflect a
combination of the expectations and skills of both partners (Asher et al. 1996).
A substantial amount of research has been conducted to investigate and concep-
tually model the aspects of friendship among typically developing children (e.g.,
Bukowski et al. 1994; Parker and Asher 1993). Researchers working within devel-
opmental theoretical frameworks have found that children develop different priorities
for friendship as they mature, with intimacy becoming much more important in
adolescence than in early childhood where shared activities are the focus of most
friendships (e.g., Ladd 1988; Newcomb and Bagwell 1996). Freeman and Kasari
(1998) reported that companionship, stability, and emotional support are more often
used in definitions of friendship than affection and intimacy.
Although different stages and aspects of friendship have been well docu-
mented in studies of typically developing children, less research has been
conducted in which this knowledge and definitions have been applied to
examine the friendships of children with developmental disabilities and typical-
ly developing peers. Much research has focused on establishing the presence of
friendships between children with disabilities and peers in different settings.
Many of these studies have reported on friendships, but have actually utilized
sociometric analysis to measure the peer status or acceptance of children with
disabilities in inclusive settings (e.g., DiGenaro Reed et al. 2011; Evans et al.
1992; Hall 1994; Hall and McGregor 2000). Peer status measures, however, may not
relate to actual shared activities or to friendship (e.g., Evans et al. 1992; Hall and
McGregor 2000).
While some researchers have described relationships of children with disabilities
in inclusive settings as being very ordinary and characteristic of friendships between
typically developing children (Staub 1998; Strully and Strully 1985), others have
suggested that the friendships involving children with developmental disabilities may
be different in quality or features (e.g., Bauminger et al. 2008b; Chamberlain et al.
2007; Hurley-Geffner 1995). Thus, it would seem probable that at least some relation-
ships have a different character to those between typically developing children.
Examination of friendships in typically developing children and children with
disabilities has often involved nomination of a friendand the subsequent exami-
nation of characteristics of the relationship on the assumption that nomination reflects
and actual friendship. For example, friendship scales such as those developed by
J Dev Phys Disabil
Parker and Asher (1993) and Bukowski et al. (1994) have been used to describe the
characteristics of friendships on the assumption that the relationship exists
(Chamberlain et al. 2007;Kasarietal.2011;Kuoetal.2011; Wiener and
Schneider 2002; Wiener and Tardif 2004). The assumption that nomination equates
to actual friendship in typically developing children may well be reasonable. In
children with developmental disabilities, however, friendships and other rela-
tionships may possess unusual characteristics and understanding of the term
friendand may not necessarily be the same as for typically developing peers.
Researchers examining children with disabilities have used a variety of methods
to infer the existence or non-existence of friendships, often consisting of a
direct question as to whether a peer is a friend (e.g., Evans et al. 1992; Kuo et
al. 2011; Lee et al. 2003; Locke et al. 2010) and have often assumed a preexisting
friendship when examining features or interactions between the individuals involved
in the relationship (Freeman and Kasari 2002; Matheson et al. 2007; Morrison and
Burgman 2009). Researchers, however, have not typically attempted to determine the
extent to which these relationships actually met the criteria of friendship as it has
traditionally been defined and the correspondence between nominations of friends
and the expected features of friendship.
In a recent review of the literature on social relations of children with
developmental disabilities, Webster and Carter (2007) found that, in contrast to
the literature on the relationships of typically developing children, which had exten-
sively examined the defining characteristics of friendships, more limited parallel
research has been conducted on the friendships of children with developmental
disabilities. Howes (1983) conducted one of the first studies of children with dis-
abilities and typically developing peers in a hospital-based program for children with
emotional disturbances. Using traditional definitions of friendship, Howes used the
criteria of mutual preference, mutual enjoyment, and the ability to engage in
skillful interaction to identify friendships between both toddler and preschool-
age children. Howes discovered that mutual preference was the easiest criteria
for preschool friendship dyads to meet, whereas mutual enjoyment expressed by
positive affect, the most critical aspect of friendship, was the hardest to achieve.
Although this study did utilize specific criteria to examine friendships between
children with disabilities and peers, it was extremely limited by its artificial
setting, narrow age range, and primary focus on children with emotional
disabilities. In contrast, Harry et al. (1998) found that individual features (reci-
procity, liking, affection, and having fun), as identified by Bukowski et al. (1996), as
important in the friendships of typically developing children were also present in the
relationship of two girls with disabilities. The researchers in this study, however,
made this evaluation based on subjective judgment rather than a systematic evalua-
tion of these features. In addition, the researchers only documented the relationship of
two girls who both had disabilities and attended a specialized class in a primary
school. Freeman and Kasari (2002) utilized systematic criteria from research on
friendship of typically developing children (i.e. stability, parent nomination and
reciprocal nomination) to examine the friendships of children with Down
Syndrome and their peers. After examination of information provided by target
children, peers, and parents, the researchers discovered that at least 30 % of all the
dyads did not meet the stated criteria for friendship. More recently a small number of
J Dev Phys Disabil
studies (Bauminger et al. 2008a, 2009; Rossetti 2011) have used predefined criteria to
select friend, but relied on the perceptions of individual students or parents to
determine these friendships rather than confirming them through specific criteria
traditionally used to define friendships.
Another aspect of friendship that has not been very thoroughly examined for
the friendships of children with disabilities is the reciprocity of the relation-
ships. Reciprocity has been considered a critical component in definitions of
friendship. Mannarino (1980) stated that reciprocity is the most essential element in
a friendship. Reciprocity can involve both mutuality of behaviors in a relationship
and reciprocity of friendship nomination. Research on the mutuality of behavior in
the relationship of children with disabilities has been very limited and has often only
approached the issue indirectly. For example, much of the research examining
reciprocity has focused on mutuality of specific and limited behaviors during defined
interactions (e.g., Evans et al. 1992; Hanline 1993), and not necessarily on the range
of behaviors that are specifically associated with friendships. With regard to recipro-
cation of friendship nomination, only a handful of researchers (Chamberlain et al.
2007; Freeman and Kasari 2002; Wiener and Schneider 2002) have utilized nomina-
tion by target students as well as reciprocation of nomination by peers to examine the
friendships of children with disabilities. All of these researchers found that their
chosen peers did not necessarily reciprocate the nominations of friends by target
students. Although reciprocity of nominations and mutuality of behaviors have been
reported between children with disabilities and typically developing peers, research-
ers have found that, in some cases, reciprocal friendships are more likely between
children with disabilities (Cuckle and Wilson 2002). Recently Kasari et al. (2011)
found that many friendships between children with autism spectrum disorders and
their typically developing peers were often described by the individuals as unilateral
rather than reciprocal friendships.
Much existing research on children with disabilities has focused on de-
scribing the characteristics and features of relationships that are assumed to be
friendships on the basis of nomination. Few studies have attempted to exam-
ine whether nominated relationships actually include components of friend-
ships as they have traditionally been defined. In addition, few researchers
have specifically examined reciprocity of nomination of friendship between
children with disabilities and their peers in inclusive settings. The present
study was part of a larger investigation of the characteristics of relationships
of children with developmental disabilities and examined the following re-
search questions:
1. Do relationships between children with developmental disabilities and peers
include the three defining components of friendship (mutual liking, mutual
enjoyment, and shared interactions) and thus meet the criteria that have
been used in the literature to define friendships between typically develop-
ing children?
2. What is the degree of mutuality of behaviors associated with the three defining
components of friendship?
3. To what extent does reciprocal peer nomination of friendship accord with the
presence of defining friendship components?
J Dev Phys Disabil
Methodology
Setting
The research was conducted in Alice Springs, Australia. Alice Springs has a popu-
lation of approximately 27,000 people, which includes an estimated 5,000 Aboriginal
Australians. Due to various employment and lifestyle opportunities, Alice Springs
also has a highly diverse population with immigrants from many countries and
cultures. It is located at the center of Australia and is 1,300 km from any city with
a larger population.
Selection of Target Students
A letter was sent to all area primary schools detailing the basic parameters of the
study and outlining the criteria for selection of the target students. Schools were asked
to identify any student who: (1) had been identified as having a developmental
disability, which was defined as a significant delay in adaptive behavior and at least
one other area of functional impairment such as cognitive or communication skills
(Centre for Developmental Disability Studies 2001;Developmental Disabilities
Assistance and Bill of Rights Act 2000; National Association of Developmental
Disabilities Councils 2003; Northern Territory Government 2005); (2) had a high
level of educational need in that s/he had been identified by the Northern Territory
Department of Education, Employment and Training as requiring regular and ongo-
ing individual assistance in order to access the curriculum; (3) had a record of regular
attendance and/or would be present in school for the entire school year; and (4) had
not been identified as a child whose primary disability was a sensory impairment (i.e.
impairments in hearing, vision), a physical disability, or behavior problems. Children
were also excluded from the study if the primary diagnosis was a learning disability
with average intellectual ability, low achievement, and no corresponding significant
delays in other areas or adaptive behavior.
This study was a part of a larger investigation (Webster and Carter 2010a,b,c). In
the original study, all ten area public and private primary schools agreed to participate
in the study, but three private schools (two of which were very small) reported that
they did not have any students who met the specified criteria. Participating schools
nominated all students who met the criteria for the study. Parental consent was
obtained for 25 students. Due to the difficulties of children in preschool and transition
classes might have in completing the full questionnaire used in this research, the
current study was limited to examination of the friendships of the 16 target students in
grades 16.
Target Students
Nine of the selected students were in the lower primary grades of 1 through 3 (mean
age=7:2, range 5:19:4), and seven were in upper primary grades 4 through 6 (mean
age=10:9, range 10:012:1). Target students were predominately male with three
J Dev Phys Disabil
girls and 13 boys. Seven children were identified as being of Aboriginal descent.
Based on diagnostic reports of the 16 target students with a developmental disability,
nine students had a primary diagnosis of an intellectual disability (five mild, three
moderate, and one severe) with compounding disabilities in communication and
motor skills. Three students had a primary diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder,
two students had severe communication disorders with compounding social-
emotional and learning delays, and two students had unspecified developmental
delays with deficits in multiple areas.
The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Interview (Sparrow et al. 1985) and the Social
Skills Rating System (Gresham and Elliott 1990) were completed for each student
using the teacher as an informant. Table 1shows the individual component scores for
the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Interview and the Social Skills Rating System as
well as the ages and grades for each of the target students. The mean score for the
Vineland Adaptive Behavior Composite was 62.8 (range 4273). This score is falls in
the lowrange as the mean standard score is 100. In addition, 13 students (81 %) had
a composite score that was less than 70 while three students (19 %) had scores that
were below 60. Assessment on the Social Skills Rating System (Gresham and Elliott
1990) produced a group mean standard score of 80.1 (range 6297) on the Social
Skills subtest. This is in the lowrange and reflects fewer social skills than would be
expected for students in primary school age groups. A group mean standard score of
117.2 (range 104137) was found across the 16 target students on the Problem
Table 1 Target student demographics and assessment scores
Students
name
Age Grade Vineland
Composite Communication Daily
living
Socialization Social
skills
Behaviour Academic
Adam D 12.1 6 57 44 63 70 95 113 82
Adam N 10.8 5 61 65 69 64 62 133 72
Eldin 9.4 3 61 52 64 74 91 113 78
Gary 8.5 3 65 66 70 66 79 131 86
Harriet 11.4 6 42 22 43 60 62 112 72
Ingrid 5.7 1 67 69 71 69 69 110 76
Jacob 6.1 1 73 66 76 85 77 110 82
Jayden 10.9 5 67 61 67 81 86 118 76
Kira 7.0 1 62 68 52 74 86 118 70
Lucien 10.0 4 57 51 63 63 73 117 72
Martin 10.8 5 65 70 69 64 85 130 99
Mitchell
J.
8.4 2 66 60 70 65 68 137 72
Payne 8.1 2 58 63 59 58 85 106 79
Scooter 7.8 2 71 71 75 75 90 113 82
Shawn 9.1 2 62 61 64 68 77 110 82
Tod 10.3 4 70 72 72 76 97 104 106
Mean 9.2 3.3 62.8 60.1 65.4 69.5 80.1 117.2 80.4
J Dev Phys Disabil
Behavior subtest. This score falls at the high end of the average range. It is important
to note that a higher score indicates the child exhibits a greater number of problem-
atic behaviors that may interfere with learning. For students in the primary age group,
a mean standard score of 80.3 (range 70106) was found for the academic measure.
This score falls within the belowrange when compared to the norm.
Nomination of Peers
Some researchers (Hurley-Geffner 1995) have suggested that children with disabil-
ities may have relationships that are different from those of typically developing
peers. Consequently, it was determined that peer selection would not be limited by
sex, age, or gender, but would be restricted only to peers in the school setting.
Nominations were also not limited to the childs class as children may have formed
a friendship with a peer in a subsequent year but then have been placed in a
corresponding class in the current year. Thus, sociometric analysis was not consid-
ered to be appropriate. Furthermore, previous researchers (e.g., Gest et al. 2001) have
questioned the validity of using sociometric instruments to identify friends, indicating
they may reflect personal popularity rather than suggesting friendship per se.
The range of ages and communication levels of the target population in the present
study made it necessary to find a method of peer nomination that allowed target
students to participate in the nomination of peers. Thus, it was decided that target
students would be asked please tell me the names of your three closest friends.
Following nomination of peers were by target students, his/her teacher was shown the
list of friends and asked to confirm through verbal agreement that these peers were
the three who had the closest relationship to the target student. Teachers confirmed
the nomination of all 15 target students who were able to verbally nominate their
three closest friends. For one student who was nonverbal, the teacher was asked who
are the three peers who are the target students closest friends, or if not friends, are the
peers who are closest to the target student?. The target student was then shown
pictures of six peers, including the three that had been nominated by the teachers as
well as three that were randomly selected, and was asked to point to her friends. The
target student confirmed the nominations of her teacher through picture selection.
Three students were initially selected for each of the 16 target students, but after one
nominated peer moved duringthe initial phase of the study, a total of 47 nominated peers
participated. Fifteen peers were female and 32 were male. Peers were in grades 1
through 6. Thirteen nominated peers were of Aboriginal heritage. Eight nominated
peers were currently enrolled in classes other than the ones in which the target students
were enrolled. Five nominated peers were selected by two different students, and two
target students were also selected as nominated peers by other target students.
All nominated peers participated in an interview concerning their relationship with
the target student. During these interviews, peers were also asked to nominate their
friends. Twenty-nine peers identified the target student as a friend when asked to list
their friends at the beginning of the interview. If the peer did not voluntarily nominate
the target child, s/he was asked a direct question as to whether the target student was a
friend. Thirteen peers confirmed that the target student was his/her friend after being
directly asked, and five peers stated that the target student was not a friend when asked.
J Dev Phys Disabil
One peer was not able to confirm or deny the target student as a friend due to limited
proficiency in English. Peers were interviewed regardless of whether they indicated the
target student was a friend as the target student had identified the peer as a friend.
Development of Questionnaire
The questionnaire used in this research contained 77 questions, but only 18 of
these were pertinent to the research discussedinthisarticle.Descriptionsofthe
three components of friendship provided by Howes (1983) and Bukowski et al.
(1996) were examined to identify the behaviors associated with each component.
Thus, questions were included that directly reflected the descriptions provided by the
above researchers. The components of friendship and interview questions for each
question are presented in Table 2and will now be overviewed.
Howes (1983) defined shared interactions as the ability to engage in reciprocal
and complementary play in which the actions of one child result in a reversal or
extension by the other child and in which both children are aware of and responsive to
the roles of the other. Bukowski et al. (1996) add that shared interaction includes
mutual regard behaviors such as cooperation as well as perceived benefits. Behavior
indicators associated with shared interactions include playing together (Q8), sharing
things (Q7), sitting around and talking together (Q12), counting on each for ideas
(Q11), shared interests (Q10), and working together to come up with ideas on ways to
do things (Q13).
Howes (1983) defined mutual enjoyment as the ability to engage in positive
affective exchanges during social interactions. Behaviors associated with mutual
enjoyment include displays of affection between members of the dyad (Q15, 17,
18), expressions of feelings of happiness (Q2, 3) and enjoyment in activities (Q5) by
both members. As stated in a previous section, the reciprocity of enjoyment is a
critical aspect of friendship and thus behaviors and feelings of both members of the
relationship should be measured.
Mutual liking or preference is described as a high probability that an interaction
will follow a social initiation by either participant and suggests an emotional bond
between the two persons (Howes 1983). Bukowski et al. (1996) add that mutual
liking suggests that a person wishes to spend time with a particular peer more than he/
she wishes to spend time with other peers (Q4). Behaviors associated with mutual
liking include calling someone a friend (Q1), asking that person to play (Q6, 9), and
spending free time together (Q16).
One specific question (Q1) directly asked respondents whether the peer called the
target student his/her friend. As target students were asked initially to nominate
peers that were their friends at the commencement of the research, the question of
whether the target student considered the nominated peer to be his/her friend was
already assumed to have been answered.
Cronbachs alpha was calculated to evaluate the internal consistency of questions.
The resulting values for shared interaction (0.86), mutual liking (0.85) and mutual
enjoyment (0.81) indicated a high level of internal consistency.
J Dev Phys Disabil
Interview Procedures
As it was anticipated that obtaining information from children with developmental
disabilities, including communication problems, over a considerable age range,
would present a challenge, several strategies were employed to assist in obtaining
the most complete data set possible. It was also anticipated that a number of the
participants would not be able to complete the interview due to cognitive and/or
Table 2 Ranked questions associated with three components of friendship
Ranking Question High
range
Medium
range
Low
range
Friendship
component
No
data
1.
a
Does ___ call you his/her friend? 37 8 2 ML
2.
b
Do you feel happy when you are with ____? 35 11 1 ME
3.
c
Do you think ____ is happy when he/she is with
you?
33 9 3 ME 2
4.
b
Do you want to spend time with _____? 29 13 3 ML 2
5.
d
Do you and ____ do fun things together? 25 14 6 ME 2
6.
b
Do you ask ____ to play/talk to you? 22 19 6 ML
7.
d
Do you and ____ share things with each other? 18 24 5 SI
8.
d
Do you and ___ play together at recess and
lunch?
18 22 7 SI
9.
c
Does ____ ask you to play/talk to him/her? 15 23 9 ML
10.
b
Do you and ____ like the same things 12 28 7 SI
11.
d
Do you and ____ count on each other for good
ideas about games to play
12 16 17 SI 2
12.
e
Do you and ____ just sit around and talk about
school, sports, and things you like?
11 17 19 SI
13.
d
Do you and ____ come up with good ideas on
ways to do things?
11 16 20 SI
14.
d
Do you and ____ pick each other as partners? 10 20 17 ML
15.
c
Does ____ hug or wrestle with you? 10 11 24 ME 2
16.
e
Do you and ____ spend your free time
together?
92513ML
17.
b
Do you hug or wrestle with ____? 6 14 27 ME
18.
c
Do you and ____ hug or wrestle with each
other?
51824ME
SI shared interaction, ME mutual enjoyment, ML mutual liking
a
Indicates item reflecting reciprocity of friendship
b
Indicates items that were derived from descriptions of behaviors by Howes (1983) and Bukowski et al.
(1996)
c
Indicates items that reflect reciprocity of behaviors
d
Indicates item taken from the Friendship Quality Questionnaire (Parker and Asher 1993)
e
Indicates item taken from the Friendship Quality Scale (Bukowski et al. 1994)
J Dev Phys Disabil
communication delays. Thus, in order to present the most complete and accurate
picture of the relationships, interviews regarding the relationship between each dyad
were conducted with target students, nominated peers, classroom teachers (general
education), and parents of target students. This is consistent with the suggestion of
researchers (Freeman and Kasari 1998; Kasari et al. 2011) that multiple sources be
used to provide information on relationships of children with disabilities to add
support to the information that can be provided by the children themselves. Not all
of the target students could provide answers to all of the interview questions. After
consultation with classroom teachers, however, it was established that a large number
could answer at least the first 10 questions on the interview form, four of which were
pertinent to this study, and thus provide some information on their perspective of the
relationships. This information was considered important. Five of the 16 target
students were able to provide answers to the complete set of interview questions.
An additional eight target students were able to answer the initial 10 questions, which
included four questions (Q2, 7, 8 and 10), which were relevant to the current study.
In addition, several sample questions were given to students and the different
responses were explained and demonstrated at the beginning of the interview. It was
considered important to assess the level of reliability of child respondents. Thus, in
the full survey of 77 questions, three of the first 10 questions were repeated for child
respondents to assess reliability. Two of these three reliability questions were used in
the present study. Students were considered to be reliable if they answered all three
repeated questions identically. Only two target students were excluded as they did not
meet the criteria for reliability and one target student was unable to answer any
questions. In all cases, interviews still proceeded with peers, teachers and parents.
Photographs of students were available if necessary to remind the target child of
whom they were discussing. Adults and all children who could read were given a
written copy of the interview format to follow as the interviewer asked the questions.
More information on the adaptations to interviews is presented in Webster and Carter
(2010a)
Interviews were conducted at schools for all participants with the exception of
some parents, where interviews were conducted at community locations. Target
students, parents, and teachers were asked each question three times in succession
for each of the nominated peers. Parents and teachers were asked questions from the
standpoint of the target student.
Interview Completion Rate and Data Sets
Thirty-one per cent of target students, 98 % of peers, and 100 % of teachers and
parents completed the complete full set of interview questions relevant to this study.
An additional 80 % of target students completed the first 10 questions on the
interview form, four of which were relevant to the current study. As mentioned
previously, although nine target students and two peers were unable to answer all
interview questions, parents and teachers were able to provide data for all questions.
It should be noted, however, that parents, in particular, often responded that did not
know the answer to specific questions about their childs relationships with peers.
Specific information on the number of dyads for which no data were available for
J Dev Phys Disabil
individual questions is provided in the final column of Table 2. Data were provided
for all 47 dyads for 13 of the 18 questions, and were provided for all but two dyads
for the other five questions.
Data Analysis
A 3-point scale (always,sometimesand never) was used for all respondents.
Further, if the respondent initially answered yes, s/he was then asked if s/he
engaged in the behavior some of the timeor all of the time.Adont know
response option was provided, as it was considered inappropriate to force responses
where a participant (such as a parent or teacher) might not have knowledge of the
information. Prior to analysis, responses were converted nominally into scores with 3
for always,2sometimes, and 1 for never. Responses to individual questions
for each dyad were categorized as in the high range when the mean response across
respondents was in the top range of possible scores (range 2.33 to 3.00). Responses
were categorized as in the low range when the mean response across respondents was
in the lowest possible range of scores (range 1.00 to 1.66). Responses were catego-
rized as in the medium range when the mean response across respondents was
between these values. If an interviewee failed to respond or responded, I dont
knowto a relevant question, their data were excluded.
Noting that differing numbers of respondents could contribute to each question, it
was appropriate to evaluate the consistency of respondent scores for each dyad. Thus,
an average deviation was calculated across the respondents for each question. A mean
average deviation of 0.35 (SD=0.05, range 0.240.47) was calculated across all
dyads, respondents and questions and questions indicating a reasonably high degree
of agreement among respondents.
The individual questions were then initially sorted according to the number of
dyads with responses in the high range. Where responses in the high range were
equal, the questions were further sorted by the number of dyads with responses in the
medium range. Similarly, when the number of medium range responses was equal,
questions were sorted by the number of responses in the low range. Questions were
then ranked according to this sort.
Results
All questions were sorted and ranked by the number of dyads with scores in the high,
medium and low range. The questions along with the component of friendship (e.g.
mutual liking, mutual enjoyment, shared interaction) to which they contribute are
presented in Table 2. In addition, the median ranking for each component of friend-
ship was calculated. The median ranking for mutual liking was 7.5. The median
ranking for mutual enjoyment was 10.0 and the median ranking for Shared
Interaction was 10.5.
As friendship is defined as a reciprocal relationship that is characterized by mutual
liking, mutual enjoyment, and shared interaction, results for dyads were examined to
determine how many dyads had scores in the high range for the majority of questions.
J Dev Phys Disabil
Dyads were sorted into three groups according to the number of questions and
associated behaviors that were rated in the high range. Dyads were also sorted into
three groups according to the number of questions and associated behaviors that were
rated by respondents as in either the high or medium range. These results are shown
in Tables 3and 4. The majority of dyads had scores in the high or medium range
across the majority of questions and behaviors. This indicates that respondents
reported that dyads always or sometimes engaged in many behaviors associated with
traditional definitions of friendship. Additionally, eight dyads (27 %) reported they
always engaged in the majority of behaviors associated with friendships.
Mutuality of Behaviors
It has been argued that friendships and behaviors associated with friendships must be
reciprocal or mutual. In order to examine the mutuality of behaviors, the responses for
target students and peers for questions for each component were compared to see if
they agreed that the behavior occurred. In addition, as many target students were not
able to respond to all questions, the responses of peers and teachers (who answered
questions from the target students point of view) were compared. The results of these
comparisons are presented in Tables 3and 4, which indicates the percentage of dyads
in which there was total agreement, a 1-point discrepancy, or a 2-point discrepancy. It
should be noted that a negative score indicates that the peer reported the behavior
occurred more frequently and a positive score indicates that the target student or
Table 3 High and high/medium responses across components of friendship
>2/3 of Questions 1/32/3 of Questions <1/3 of Questions
Dyads with behaviors in high range 8 18 21
Dyads with behaviors in high/medium range 35 8 4
Table 4 Mutuality of friendship for components of friendship across dyads
Discrepancy Mutual enjoyment Mutual liking Shared interaction
Target
student/peer
Teacher/
Peer
Target
student/peer
Teacher/
Peer
Target
student/peer
Teacher/
Peer
2 0%1%0%5%4%7%
1 16 % 17 % 13 % 21 % 16 % 29 %
0 48 % 52 % 44 % 49 % 33 % 41 %
+1 29 % 24 % 37 % 23 % 39 % 20 %
+2 7% 5% 7% 3% 8% 4%
Always/Sometimes
discrepancy
28 % 21 % 42 % 25 % 34 % 22 %
Never/Sometimes
discrepancy
17 % 20 % 7 % 18 % 20 % 26 %
J Dev Phys Disabil
teacher reported the behavior occurred more frequently. The results indicate that a
clear majority of target students and peers as well as teachers and peers agreed that
behaviors either did or did not occur. The only exception was that slightly more dyads
had a 1-point discrepancy for peers and target students than had total agreement for
Shared Interaction. Additionally, the results for dyads with a 1-point discrepancy
were examined to determine whether the disagreement was between 3.00 (always)
and 2.00 (sometimes) or 2.00 and 1.00 (never). These results are presented in the final
two lines of Tables 3and 4.
Peer Reciprocation
Peers either voluntarily stated that the target student was his/her friend when asked to
list their friends (voluntary reciprocation), confirmed that the target student was his/
her friend after being specifically asked (confirmed reciprocation) or stated that the
target student was not his/her friend (non-reciprocated). Additionally one peer was
unable to answer the question. Descriptive data for the number of questions scored in
the high range by reciprocation status are presented in Table 5. Corresponding data
for dyads that had responses in either the high range or medium range are also
presented. The results in Table 5indicate that compared to the other groups, voluntary
reciprocated nomination by peers was associated with a higher mean number of
behaviors in the high range and a lower standard deviation in proportion to the mean.
The range of behaviors in the high range for dyads with voluntary nomination was
also quite wide in comparison to dyads with confirmed reciprocated or non-
reciprocated nomination. Results for behaviors in the high and medium range were
very similar except that dyads in all three nomination groups were linked to a wide
range of number of behaviors in the high and medium range.
Discussion
The current study sought to determine whether 16 students with developmental
disabilities and their 47 closet peers reported engaging in behaviors associated with
Table 5 Number of behaviors in the (1) High range and (2) High/Medium range by nomination status
Mean Standard deviation Range
Behaviors in high range
Voluntary nomination (n=28) 8.43 3.68 2 to 17
Confirmed nomination (n=14) 5.46 4.74 0 to 12
Non reciprocated nomination (n=5) 2.20 2.39 0 to 6
Behaviors in high/medium range
Voluntary nomination (n=28) 15.00 2.48 9 to 18
Confirmed nomination (n=14) 11.46 5.68 2 to 18
Non reciprocated nomination (n=5) 9.60 5.18 2 to 16
J Dev Phys Disabil
mutual liking, mutual enjoyment and shared interactions, which have been identified
(Bukowski et al. 1996; Howes 1983) to comprise the three critical components of
friendship. In addition, mutuality of the behaviors associated with friendship was
examined as well as the extent to which reciprocal nomination accorded with the
presence of features of friendship.
Components of Friendship
Howes (1983) and Bukowski et al. (1996) have suggested that all three components
of friendship must be present if the relationship is to meet the definition of a true
friendship. In the current study, the responses of target students, peers, parents and
teachers in interviews, indicated that no single component of friendship emerged as
being differentially problematic for the majority of dyads. When questions and
behaviors were ranked and median rankings were calculated for the three components
of friendship, the median rankings were very similar. The median ranking for mutual
liking was slightly lower than the median ranking for the other two components, but
the difference was small. This finding is somewhat inconsistent to some degree with
the previous research of Howes (1983) who found that young children with emotional
disabilities had a difficult time meeting the criteria for mutual preference (liking).
This difference may reflect the different samples considered in the studies, emotional
disabilities versus developmental disabilities, and preschool versus primary school
students. Similarly, these results are somewhat contrasting to those of a more recent
study in which Bauminger et al. (2008a) found that adolescents with high functioning
autism demonstrated less positive affect and shared fun in their relationships than a
comparison group of typically developing children did in their relationships. These
authors, however, did suggest that similar to the findings in the current study, the
adolescents with autism did engage in many of the behaviours associated with
friendship, but did so less frequently than typically developing adolescents. Thus,
the degree to which children with developmental disabilities demonstrate all three
components of friendship in their relationships, warrants more investigation to
determine whether these individuals do indeed engage in a balance of these behav-
iours, but do so to a lesser degree than typically developing children.
To be considered a friendship a relationship should possess all three components
of friendship. Thus, the results for dyads were also examined to determine how many
dyads had scores in the high range across all three components of friendship. Eight
dyads (17 %) had scores in the high range for the majority of the questions and
associated behaviors. While this figure was quite low, 79 % of dyads had scores in the
high or medium range for the majority of questions and behaviors. This indicates that
the majority of dyads reported that they always or sometimes engaged in most of the
behaviors associated with traditional definitions of friendships. This is consistent with
the findings of Webster and Carter (2010c) who found that during observations of
children with disabilities and peers in playground settings, many of the children with
disabilities engaged in frequent behaviors such as talking together, playing together
and showing enjoyment, which are often associated with traditional definitions of
friendship. Furthermore, one dyad reported that they always engaged in all but one of
the behaviors associated with friendship and nine dyads reported that they engaged in
J Dev Phys Disabil
all behaviors associated with friendship at least some or all of the time. This should be
regarded as an encouraging finding and to some extent addresses the question of
previous researchers (Bauminger et al. 2008b; Chamberlain et al. 2007; Hurley-
Geffner 1995) whether the friendships of children with developmental disabilities
look similar to friendships between typically developing children. In broad terms,
there is evidence that for a majority of dyads, relationships were reported to possess
the basic behavioral features associated with friendship, at least some of the time. It
was also interesting to note that only four dyads had low scores for the majority of
behaviors and nine dyads did not have low scores for any question and associated
behavior.
Results also indicate that a small number of dyads were found to have scores in the
high range across the majority of behaviors associated with friendship and a consid-
erable majority number of dyads reported they always or sometimes engaged in most
of behaviors associated with friendship. This result is somewhat surprising given the
fact that dyads were identified based on the peers who had the three closest relation-
ships with target students. It can therefore be argued that if these dyads represent the
target students strongest relationships, then at least four target students did not have
any relationships that possessed the critical features associated with a friendship.
Mutuality of Behaviors
Reciprocity has often been defined as a key feature of friendship. One aspect of
reciprocity is mutuality of behaviors in dyads. Thus responses for target students were
compared to responses of peers for questions associated with the three components of
friendship. The results for all three components of friendship indicate that at least
33 % of target students and peers agreed exactly and 88 % agreed within one point.
Furthermore, disagreements between target students and peers of one point were
more typically disagreements of whether the behaviors occurred all of the time or
most of the time rather than whether behaviors were absent or present. These data
would therefore suggest that target students and peers tended to agree about the
presence of behavior and disagreements primarily reflected the extent to which
behavior occurred. This would be consistent with the findings of Bauminger et al.
(2008a,b) that adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and their friends often
agreed about the presence of certain features of their friendship including, mutuality,
closeness, and help, but disagreed about how much these aspects were present in their
relationship.
As some target students were not able to respond to all or even some questions,
responses of peers were also compared to the teachers responses. The teacher was
asked questions from the viewpoint of the target student. The results of this compar-
ison were very similar to that of target students and peers. Over the three components
of friendship, at least 41 % agreed exactly and 90 % of teachers and peers agreed
within one point. Teacher-peer 1-point disagreements were more evenly split as to
whether the behaviors occurred all of the time or most of the time or whether
behaviors were absent or present, perhaps reflecting the less direct access of teachers
to some information on the relationships. It is important to note that neither compar-
isons between target students and peers or between teachers and peers revealed many
J Dev Phys Disabil
2-point discrepancies in responses. Few researchers have examined relationships
from both members. Mutual agreement as to whether behaviors occurred indicates
that target students and peers in the present study often had similar perceptions of
their relationship. This contrasts with the finding of Bauminger and Kasari (2000)
that children with autism spectrum disorders often had a very different perspective of
the relationship than their peers, perhaps reflecting the more diverse nature of the
sample in the present study
Reciprocal Nomination and Characteristics of Friendship
In previous research (Chamberlain et al. 2007; Schneider et al. 1997; Wiener and
Schneider 2002) friendship was often determined only by asking target students and/
or peers to nominate their friends or single best friend and then by comparing these
results to determine reciprocation of friendship nomination between the two children.
This process was approximated in the current study in two ways. First, after initial
nomination of friends by target students and teachers, the three nominated peers were
asked at the beginning of interview sessions to identify their friends at school
(voluntary nomination, confirmed nomination or non-reciprocated nomination).
Second, a question was included on the interview that asked respondents if the peer
considered the target student his/her friend(Q1). As mentioned previously, as target
students in conjunction with teachers were asked initially to nominate peers that were
their friends at the commencement of the research, the question of whether the target
student considered the nominated peer to be his/her friend was already assumed to
have been answered.
Approximately 60 % of peers voluntarily stated that the target student was his/her
friend when asked to name friends. Another 25 % of peers confirmed that the target
student was his/her friend when directly asked and only 10 % of peers indicated that
the target student was not a friend. With regard to the number of behaviors in the high
range for dyads, the range data suggests that neither voluntary nor confirmed
reciprocated nomination of target students as friends by peers necessarily indicated
that dyads reported they engaged in behaviors associated with components of friend-
ship. Voluntary reciprocation by peers, however, was associated with a reported
greater number and lower standard deviation of behaviors in the high and high/
medium range. Correspondingly, confirmed reciprocation was associated with a
lower mean and greater variation in number of behaviors in the high and high/
medium range. Predictably, non-reciprocated nomination by peers was associated
with the lowest level of reported behaviors associated with friendship but friendships
were not reciprocated in only a small number of instances. This finding would
suggest that peers in dyads who were reported to frequently engage in behaviors
associated with friendship were most likely to voluntarily nominate a target student as
a friend or confirm the target as a friend if not initially nominated, but that nomination
of friends by either target students or peers did not mean that dyads engaged in
behaviors associated with friendship.
In particular, these data would suggest that a direct question directed to a peer
regarding whether a child with a disability is a friend may not necessarily reflect the
nature of the relationship, as indicated by more detailed behavioral questioning.
J Dev Phys Disabil
Consistent with the suggestion of Bukowski et al. (1996), peer nominations may well
reflect peer acceptance rather than true friendshipas it has been defined in the
literature. This result also supports the finding of Evans et al. (1992) that students in
elementary school often associated a friend with just playing with someone. These
data are also consistent with the finding of Freeman and Kasari (2002) that 30 % of
target students and peers in their study who nominated each other as friends did not
report engaging in many behaviors associated with friendship.
The findings in the present study are of interest given that few researchers (Chamberlain
et al. 2007; Freeman and Kasari 2002; Matheson et al. 2007; Wiener and Schneider
2002) have utilized reciprocal nomination of friends by both target students and peers
and many have relied on only simple nomination of friends by target students (e.g.,
Bauminger and Kasari 2000; Hall 1994; Hall and McGregor 2000) or only by peers
(Evans et al. 1992) to determine friendship between dyads. In contrast, some
researchers (e.g., Gest et al. 2001; Schneider et al. 1997) have used reciprocal
nomination by both peers and target students as well as supporting data to determine
friendships between typically developing children. Similarly, in the present study,
when stringent criteria involving multiple behaviors are applied, fewer numbers of
dyads were actually considered to frequently engage in behaviors typically associated
with friendship. These findings would also support the contention of Freeman and
Kasari (2002) that quantitative measurement of specific and multiple criteria can and
should be used to determine friendship between children with disabilities and peers.
Freeman and Kasari utilized the criteria of reciprocal nomination, parent nomination,
and stability. In the current study, criteria previously linked to the definition of
friendship and its components as well as peer reciprocation were used to evaluate
the presence of friendships between dyads. The present findings suggest that directly
asking students if a specific peer is a friend (confirmed nomination) represents the
least stringent criteria for friendship and such declarations are less likely than
voluntary nomination to reflect the presence of expected engagement in multiple
behaviors associated with mutual liking, mutual enjoyment and shared interactions.
Limitations and Future Directions
A number of limitations of the present study should be acknowledged. While
information was collected from multiple sources (target students, peers, teachers
and parents), the data presented here was exclusively based on interviews. The
present research was part of a larger study that included an observational component,
but while observational data did provide information on dyadsinteractions, obser-
vational data were insufficient to allow meaningful judgements regarding the type of
relationships existing between dyads (Webster and Carter 2010c). Additionally the
research was conducted in Alice Springs, which is an urban community with its own
unique characteristics. Further research should be conducted to check whether the
results generalise to other settings. The present study is preliminary and provides a
descriptive study of friendships. The nature of friendships would be expected to
fluctuate, (Cutts and Sigafoos 2001; Meyer et al. 1998) change and evolve over time
and an important focus for future research should be to examine these longitudinal
changes.
J Dev Phys Disabil
The current study extended previous research (e.g., Bauminger and Kasari 2000;
Hall 1994; Hall and McGregor 2000) in which peer nomination by target students
was the primary means utilized to infer the existence of a friendship. While behavior
in the high range in the current study were fairly strongly related to voluntary
reciprocated nomination by peers, this was not the case with confirmed reciprocated
nominations following direct questioning. Given this limitation, more extensive
investigation of strategies to identify friendships between children with disabilities
and peers appears warranted. In contrast with the research of Howes (1983), there was
no clear evidence that behaviors associated with any component of friendship was
more problematic for the dyads. This difference may have been a product of the
different samples under consideration but additional investigation of this issue would
seem justified. In addition, further comparisons of the friendship descriptions utilized
in the current study could profitably be conducted with additional populations of
students in the future evaluate the characteristics of these friendships.
Summary and Conclusion
The present study sought to determine whether relationships between children with
developmental disabilities and peers included friendship as it has traditionally been
defined. Interview questions associated with shared interaction, mutual enjoyment, and
mutual liking, were used to evaluate the dyadsrelationship for each component of
friendship as well as to examine the relationship of dyads across 18 behaviors tradition-
ally associated with definitions of friendships. A small number of dyads were found to
have scores in the high range across the majority of behaviors associated with friendship
and a considerable majority number of dyads reported they always or sometimes
engaged in most of the behaviors associated with friendship. There was some evidence
that voluntary peer reciprocation was associated strongly with the presence of reported
behavioral indicators of friendship. Direct questioning of peers (i.e., do you call the
target student a friend), a common strategy in friendship research, may not reflect the
true complexity of the friend relationship and may be more related to peer acceptance.
In conclusion, the present study sought to investigate the question of whether
relationships between children with developmental disabilities and peers include
friendship as it has traditionally been defined and whether these friendships are
comparable to those of typically developing children and their peers. The results of
interviews indicate that the relationships of some dyads did possess all the features of
friendship and that these friendships were characterized by the same components of
shared interaction, mutual enjoyment, and mutual liking that have traditionally been
used to define the friendships of typically developing children.
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doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2004.00086.x.
J Dev Phys Disabil
... and quantitative methods for data collection and analysis, including structured observation, audio or video analysis, structured interview procedures, developmental scales, and inventories or measures of social interaction behaviors. Webster and Carter (2010, 2013a, 2013b developed several distinct questionnaires that were completed through structured interview procedures with students with severe disabilities and TD peers to evaluate whether core components of friendship among students without disabilities (e.g., companionship, mutual enjoyment) were present in friendships between students with and without severe disabilities. The other studies in this category analyzed the quality of students' social interactions during researcher-designed play sessions in a research room outside of the school or a classroom in the school. ...
... Teachers and parents nominated friendship dyads or a TD peer who was friends with their student or child. In three studies with nominations primarily from students with severe disabilities, their teachers were asked to confirm the student nominations or to nominate friendship dyads between students with and without severe disabilities if the students with severe disabilities were unable to do so (Webster & Carter, 2010, 2013a, 2013b. How researchers operationalized friend/friendship for nomination purposes varied across studies. ...
... How researchers operationalized friend/friendship for nomination purposes varied across studies. In over half of the studies with a nomination procedure, researchers specifically requested nominations of friends without defining it (Freeman & Kasari, 2002;Rossetti, 2011;Webster & Carter, 2010, 2013a, 2013b. Freeman and Kasari (2002) did this by design to examine whether the friends invited to the clinical play session by students with Down syndrome and their families met the criteria for friendships of all students. ...
Article
Friendships are developmentally important and personally beneficial relationships for all children and youth. Despite emphasis from families and educators of students with severe disabilities on the importance of promoting and supporting friendships with their typically developing (TD) peers in inclusive settings, such relationships remain infrequent. We conducted an integrative thematic literature review of research that directly examined the nature of friendship between students with and without severe disabilities to better understand how researchers define friendship, identify participants, and confirm participants’ friendships. Implications for future research are discussed. We also sought to identify themes in extant research to guide future intervention. The thematic findings point to the importance of adults providing direct support while fading their proximity to students, and of TD peers negotiating the ongoing tension between the roles of helper and friend.
... A need is identified for further research across different intellectual levels. Furthermore, few studies have attempted to examine whether relationships identified as such by children with autism actually include components of friendships (Webster & Carter 2013) as they have most often been defined, such as a sense of intimacy and commitment. It is these twin omissions in the literature which the current study sought to address. ...
... Although other studies have explored friendship nomination in able, adolescent children with autism, it appears that none have done so in relation to younger children with autism and learning disabilities, possibly due to the methodological challenges identified by Petrina et al. (2014). Webster & Carter (2013) noted that the consideration of friendships in typically developing children and children with disabilities has generally centred on the 'nomination' of a friend, with subsequent research assuming that the nomination reflects an actual friendship. They suggest that whilst this may be a reasonable deduction in relation to typically developing children, it may be less so for children with disabilities, whose concepts of friendships may differ. ...
... As noted above, few studies of children with autism have attempted to examine whether identified friendships actually include elements of what have traditionally been described as components of friendships (Webster & Carter 2013). Hinde (1979) identified a number of friendship dimensions as follows: content, diversity, qualities, reciprocity, patterns, intimacy and commitment. ...
Article
Accessible summaryThis paper looks at the friendships of Ben, (not his real name), a 10-year-old boy with autism and learning disabilities, in his mainstream school.Ben was able to name his friends and showed that he understood some important things about friendship.Adults in the school said that Ben was very keen to have friends and that some of his friendships had lasted for over a year.The study focused on the importance of listening to children with autism and learning disabilities and on the need to highlight their social strengths.SummaryWhilst progress has been made in understanding the friendships of children with autism, research on the friendships of children with additional learning disabilities remains extremely limited. In this research, a qualitative case study approach provided a rich description of the friendship concepts and capabilities of Ben, a 10-year-old boy with autism and severe learning disabilities within the context of a mainstream primary classroom in the United Kingdom. An innovative activity-based strategy was used to gain Ben's own perspectives in relation to friendship. Findings revealed that Ben exhibited a strong desire to have friends, believed himself to have some, demonstrated some understanding in respect of degrees of friendship and displayed a commitment to friendships over relatively long periods of time. Methodological, developmental and capacity perspectives informed the discussion, with a case being made both for a greater focus on the friendship capabilities of children with autism and learning disabilities and their more direct inclusion in the research process.
... However, Lutfiyya also noted the difficulties disabled people have meeting others and forming social networks, such as a lack of opportunities to meet people without disabilities, the lack of support, and continuity. Webster and Carter, from the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC), analyzed friendships between people with and without disabilities at school, stating that although children establish a mutual acceptance, share interests, and play games, these interactions rarely evolve into more intimate relationships (Webster & Carter, 2013a, 2013b. Those authors noted the need to continue investigating, given that studies on social relationships and friendships lack an appropriate methodology and necessary rigor (Webster & Carter, 2007). ...
Article
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The primary objective of this article is to evaluate the reality of public opinion and attitudes towards the world of disability in general and the leisure time of people with intellectual disabilities specifically. This study emerges in the context of a strategic plan by the "Asociación A Toda Vela", a plan intended to improve the quality of life of young people with intellectual disabilities by participating in leisure activities. The most notable conclusions of this study determine that the social relationships of people within the world of disabilities are reduced to a narrow circle of people who are "close" and a socially distant majority that comprises an authentic social barrier to full inclusion. Conversely, a theoretical-practical divergence was also observed, i.e., although belief in the right to leisure for people with intellectual disabilities has a broad consensus, respondents express difficulties in acting on such attitudes in practice.
... However, Lutfiyya also noted the difficulties disabled people have meeting others and forming social networks, such as a lack of opportunities to meet people without disabilities, the lack of support, and continuity. Webster and Carter, from the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC), analyzed friendships between people with and without disabilities at school, stating that although children establish a Attitudes towards the leisure of people with DI ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 221 mutual acceptance, share interests, and play games, these interactions rarely evolve into more intimate relationships (Webster & Carter, 2013a, 2013b. Those authors noted the need to continue investigating, given that studies on social relationships and friendships lack an appropriate methodology and necessary rigor (Webster & Carter, 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Raw case-by-case data from 70 published reports of various structural brain measurements of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and neurotypical age-matched controls was collected, quantified, normalized and combined within seven structural MRI dimensions (volumes of whole brain, callosum, amygdala and cerebellum, cortical gyrification and thickness, and white matter fractional anisotropy). Data from 3749 persons with ASD and 3828 neurotypicals revealed that the brain is significantly structurally atypical in ASD most often in early toddlerhood, occasionally in puberty, rarely in adulthood and that these conditions radically change over the life span. The ages at which anomalies peak and trough depend on the measurement, microstructural vs macrostructural, white versus gray matter, cortical vs subcortical, etc. A dominant aspect of the results is that there seem to exist three related phases of brain development in ASD, generalized overgrowth in early toddlerhood, overpruning or overcompensatory underdevelopment in early childhood or adolescence and normalization or slightly suboptimal stabilization in adolescence or adulthood.
... In our study, friendship nominations were categorized as voluntary, confirmed or non-confirmed. Webster and Carter (2013) found that compared to confirmed friendship, voluntary friendship nominations better indicate the presence of the three basic characteristics in friendship, namely mutual liking, mutual enjoyment and shared interaction. Thus, this may be a more valid indicator of genuine reciprocation. ...
Article
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There has been limited research exploring the similarity of perception of friendship quality between children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their friends. In this study, 45 children with ASD participated together with their friends. Two levels of friendship quality congruency were investigated: reciprocity and mutuality. A high proportion of the friendships were reciprocated for both the mixed and non-mixed friendship groups. Nevertheless, students with ASD reported substantial differences in perceptions of their friendship quality as compared to their nominated friends. The findings of the present study mirrored those of previous research with typically developing children. Further study is required to systematically investigate the differences in friendship quality perceptions within friendship dyads for both typically developing children and those with ASD diagnosis.
Article
Introduction . The article is devoted to the analysis of the problem of psychological and social safety of children attending inclusive groups of preschool educational organizations. The risks of inclusive education are associated with the threat of various forms of mental violence from peers. A preschool educational organization is faced with the task of ensuring the psychological safety of educational subjects, including the formation of skills for safe social behavior and interaction in an inclusive environment. Materials and Methods . The following methods were used for the preparation of this article; theoretical analysis of Russian and international literature, study of scientific articles and publications on the topic, overview of results from Russian and international studies, content analysis. Results . Approaches to determining the content of the category of safe social behavior and its various aspects are considered: social norms, psychological stability, communication and communication, spiritual and moral qualities and moral norms, prosocial behavior, interpersonal relationships and interaction. The personal constructs of safe social behavior of preschool children in an inclusive educational environment are identified: need-motivational (setting social norms, trust in the world, social tolerance); emotional-volitional (ability to empathy, low anxiety, coping behavior); cognitive-cognitive (knowledge of the behavior of children with developmental disabilities; ability to choose constructive ways to solve problem situations); interpersonal-social (communication skills, desire for cooperation, kindness, help). Discussion and Conclusions . The conducted theoretical research allowed us to build a model that includes both the structure of safe social behavior of preschool children in an inclusive educational environment, and risk factors for socially dangerous behavior of preschoolers. It is concluded that it is necessary to implement psychological and pedagogical support for inclusive preschool education, which ensures the psychological safety of children with developmental disabilities by developing the skills of safe social interaction among peers with normative development, meeting their needs for personal and trusting communication, as well as gaining a sense of psychosocial well-being and reference significance.
Chapter
Autistic individuals experience difficulties in social communication as well as differences in social-cognitive processing. These skills are required for successful interpretation of social cues and utilisation of non-verbal communication during social interactions. In addition, restricted interests often mean that autistic children and adults are not as flexible in their leisure interests and conversation topics as their neurotypical peers. These challenges may cause autistic children and adults to experience frustration and negative consequences when they attempt to engage in interactions and form social relationships with others, particularly with those who are not autistic. This has led some autistic individuals to feel that engaging in social relationships with others is “too hard” and has perpetuated the common misperception that autistic people do not want friends. This chapter will examine the foundations of this myth as well as the research that has described the social relationships and friendships experienced by autistic individuals across different age groups. The characteristics of successful friendships and relationships will be explored, and the features of conducive environments to facilitate friendships will be identified. Finally, recommendations will be made to help create the right environments to support individuals with autism to form good relationships with both autistic and neurotypical peers in school and community settings.
Article
Background The present study examined how parents assess the significance of friendship for quality of life in adolescents with mild intellectual disability. Method The study was based on qualitative semistructured interviews with 6 mothers. A thematic structural analysis was used to identify the themes. Results The mothers compared their children with typically developing peers to examine to what extent their children’s relationships were working optimally. Social support and a better understanding of friendship were found to be essential conditions for establishing friendship. Development of independence and a sense of belonging with others were factors that were reported to be highly important in determining quality of life outcomes for their adolescent children. Conclusions From a parental view, friendship in adolescents with mild intellectual disability seems to be highly important for their quality of life in the long term. However, well-functioning and lasting friendship for this group of people appears to require substantially more effort for their parents than for typically developing offspring.
Article
Background: This study examined how adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities define qualities of friendship and discussed the extent to which these definitions adhere to established definitions of close friendship. Materials and methods: The study was based on qualitative interviews with 11 adolescents in secondary school. The interviews were supplemented with information from six parents. A thematic structural analysis was used to identify themes. Results: Qualities of friendship were categorized as mutual preference, mutual enjoyment, shared interactions, care, mutual trust and bonding. The criteria for close friendship seem to be fulfilled, albeit to a moderate degree. Closeness and reciprocity appear to be significant in this study, although these features have been considered less relevant within this target group in previous research. Conclusions: Differences in definitions may explain divergent results compared with other studies, and the need to achieve equivalence in friendship may be another.
Article
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The importance of social versus functional integration for children with developmental disabilities has been widely discussed in the literature. Although a great deal of research has been conducted to describe the features of relationships and friendships between typical preschool and primary school children, very little research has attempted to apply the same quantitative process to defining the relationships that children with developmental disabilities develop with their peers in inclusive settings. This paper will discuss the results of research conducted in Alice Springs, Australia, in which playground observations were used to systematically describe the social relationships of 25 children with developmental disabilities with 74 peers in area preschool and primary schools. For each target child, teachers and target children identified three friends or children with whom they interacted most frequently. Observations were conducted over three sessions during recess or lunch times to evaluate the occurrence of key behaviours and interactions most commonly associated with characteristics of relationships and friendships between typically developing children. Results were then examined and compared to interview results to describe the relationships. Analysis indicates that some observations were effective in corroborating interview results for behaviours associated with Companionship and a Regular Friend relationship. In addition most target children were observed to engage in at least some socially appropriate behaviours when interacting with peers. Many target children, however, engaged in social interactions with a large number of peers and did not achieve more intimate levels of interaction such as would be characteristic of a friend or best friend. Although observations were very useful in providing information about the interactions between children and the acceptance of children in play situations, behaviours exhibited were not frequent enough to make definitive judgments about the nature and types of the relationships between children with disabilities and peers.
Article
Full-text available
Children with mild disabilities may experience complications in friendship development. This study examined variables related to friendship among third- and fifth-grade students with (n = 12) and without (n = 18) disabilities in inclusion classrooms. Thirty students completed sociometric nominations and identified a preferred best friend. Additionally, students with disabilities completed a self-competence questionnaire and teachers rated them on social and behavioral dimensions. Students with disabilities showed adequate self-competence and tended to nominate other peers with disabilities on sociometric assessments, but did not select a peer with a disability as a preferred best friend. Teachers ranked students with disabilities higher on behavior problems and rated them lower on classroom adjustment, social integration, and academic performance when compared to non-disabled peers. Although students with disabilities identified preferred friends, they may be at risk for a number of negative socio-behavioral outcomes, suggesting the need for both social skills and academic-related interventions.
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to determine whether an interview protocol, based on the Friendship Quality Questionnaire, could be adapted to examine the close relationships of children with developmental disabilities in an inclusive school setting. Twenty-five children with developmental disabilities aged between approximately 5 and 12 years participated and their relationships with 74 peers were examined. Several adaptations to the procedures and interview instrument were evaluated, including gathering interview data from multiple sources and the development of a short form of the interview questionnaire. Overall, the adaptations to procedures used in the current study appeared successful in catering for the wide range of abilities and ages among respondents. This was reflected in the reliability of children's responses, high response rates on the short interview form, and good correspondence between the short and full interview forms. The described adaptations were successful in eliciting information on aspects of children's relationships that might not have been obtained using a traditional interview instrument. This opens the way for further detailed quantitative evaluation of relationships between children with developmental disabilities and peers in inclusive settings.
Article
Friendship is a very important component in human lives, but it is difficult for children with disabilities to make friends with their typical peers. This study investigated quality of play behaviors in friendships between children with and without disabilities and analyzed how typical peers perceive friendships with children with disabilities. Fifteen pairs of children with and without disabilities who chose each other as friends were selected in elementary regular classrooms. Fifteen pairs of children without disabilities and their normal friends were also selected. Each pair's play behaviors were observed twice for 30 minutes. Then children without disabilities were interviewed about their perception of friendship with their friends with disabilities. Results showed that play role and positive/neutral affect of dyads without and with disabilities was different from dyads of normal peers. Children without disabilities perceived children with disabilities as playing mates, but they noted that limitations in communication, as well as behavior problems made it difficult to maintain friendship. Future research directions were discussed.
Article
ABSTRACT The importance of social versus functional integration for children with developmental disabilities has been widely discussed in the literature. Although a great deal of research has been conducted to describe the features of relationships and friendships between typical preschool and primary school children, very little research has attempted to apply the same quantitative process to defining the relationships that children with developmental disabilities develop with their peers in inclusive settings. This paper will discuss the results of research conducted in Alice Springs, Australia, in which playground observations were used to systematically describe the social relationships of 25 children with developmental disabilities with 74 peers in area preschool and primary schools. For each target child, teachers and target children identified three friends or children with whom they interacted most frequently. Observations were conducted over three sessions during recess or lunch times to evaluate the occurrence of key behaviours and interactions most commonly associated with characteristics of relationships and friendships between typically developing children. Results were then examined and compared to interview results to describe the relationships. Analysis indicates that some observations were effective in corroborating interview results for behaviours associated with Companionship and a Regular Friend relationship. In addition most target children were observed to engage in at least some socially appropriate behaviours when interacting with peers. Many target children, however, engaged in social interactions with a large number of peers and did not achieve more intimate levels of interaction such as would be characteristic of a friend or best friend. Although observations were very useful in providing information about the interactions between children and the acceptance of children in play situations, behaviours exhibited were not frequent enough to make definitive judgments about the nature and types of the relationships between children with disabilities and peers.
Article
The distinction between friendship adjustment and acceptance by the peer group was examined. Third- through 5th-grade children (N = 88 1 ) completed sociometric measures of acceptance and friendship, a measure of loneliness, a questionnaire on the features of their very best friendships, and a measure of their friendship satisfaction. Results indicated that many low-accepted children had best friends and were satisfied with these friendships. However, these children's friendships were lower than those of other children on most dimensions of quality. Having a friend, friendship quality, and group acceptance made separate contributions to the prediction of loneliness. Results indicate the utility of the new friendship quality measure and the value of distinguishing children's friendship adjustment from their general peer acceptance.
Article
This is an interpretivist qualitative study that explores the contexts and dynamics of friendships among three groups of young adults; each group included an individual with autism or severe disability and high school students without disabilities. Data were collected through ethnographic methods where friends interacted together. Particular attention was paid to how friendships were enacted when one individual does not speak, struggles with initiation or movement, experiences anxiety, and/or uses a wheelchair. Students without disabilities tended to provide more of the help in these relationships to sustain their connection as friends and maintain opportunities to interact. The findings include examples and discussions of how the students with and without disabilities enacted their meaningful relationships.
Article
This study, provides a description of the peer relationships that developed between three male children with disabilities and their nondisabled peers in an inclusive setting. Multiple methods were employed during kindergarten/Grade 1, and again during upper elementary grades (10-13 years of age) for the same three children, including direct observation, sociometric nominations, and peer interviews. Results revealed that each of the three children with disabilities was selected as a playmate by male and female classmates during both time periods and that some play activities and social behaviors were similar to those of typical peers. The gender composition of playmates remained the same from entry to upper elementary grades for all three focal children, whereas typical peers demonstrated a strong preference for same-gender playmates. In addition, during upper elementary grades each of the children with disabilities received few total nominations on the sociometric measure, which represented a change in social status for two of the boys. Although peer relationship patterns varied, overall there were fewer reciprocal peer relationships during the upper elementary grades.