Date of Graduation
Educators working with mentally retarded and other severely communication-delayed students have begun incorporating sign language into their curriculum to promote language development. In most instances, these methods do not facilitate generalization to the natural environment where the language is actually used. This study investigated whether acquisition of sign language with moderately mentally retarded individuals is attained faster when taught in home settings by the parent or at school by the teacher in a clinical environment. Six students, ages six to twenty, attending a public special education program in central West Virginia served as subjects. All were diagnosed as moderately mentally retarded and only one had mild cerebral palsy. All exhibited severe delays in communication and had no previous sign language training. An experimental design using a multiple baseline across signs was used to teach three signs in school by the speech pathologist and three signs at home by the parent. The signs were taught using a treatment package consisting of physical prompting, fading and modeling. Generalization probes across settings, persons and time took place immediately after the student had reached criterion on all 6 signs. The study compared the effects of teacher training and parent training upon sign language acquisition and generalization. The design allowed for comparisons of these two settings in terms of actual number of trials necessary to meet criterion and correct percentage of generalization trials. Results of the study showed that the subjects learned the signs in considerably less trials at school than at home. Only one student actually learned the signs in less trials at home. Visual inspection of the data concluded that some differences did exist between certain signs, although it is unclear as to whether these differences appeared to be the result of the actual teaching procedures, setting or the nature of the sign. The generalization probes also supported the earlier findings. With the exception of one student, the signs learned at school generalized more successfully to other persons and settings than was found in the generalization trials of the home signs. The overall success of the acquisition and generalization trials of the school setting over the home environment may have been the result of a highly structured teaching situation at school coupled with a controlled reinforcement system as compared with the variability of reinforcement and family make-up in the home training situation. However, the successful acquisition and generalization of the few signs learned at home serves to confirm the important role parents play in their child's communication process.
ALLEN, CYNTHIA SUE, "COMPARISON OF ACQUISITION AND GENERALIZATION LEVELS OF MANUAL SIGNING WITH MODERATELY RETARDED PERSONS (LANGUAGE, PARENT TRAINING)." (1985). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8386.