Sociometric Status of Learning Disabled Children in an Integrative Program

Thomas R. Scran ton, EdD, and David B. Rye km an, EdD

The sociometric standing of primary-aged learning disabled students was investigated. The setting was a sparsely populated rural area where learning disabled children were mainstrearned in an elementary school in which an "open concept" delivery of services system was in operation. The "special child" stigma was therefore assumed to be significantly reduced. The data support the findings of previous studies on handicapped and normal children; i.e..significant differences were found between the learning disabled and normal control groups on both the positive and negative questions. Further analysis revealed that the learning disabled girls were less likely to be positively chosen and more likely to be rejected than the learning disabled boys. A discussion of possible reasons for such differences is included.


he increased possibility of interaction with and acceptance by normal peers is assumed to be one benefit of mainstreaming handicapped children. However, sociometric

studies of various types of handicapped children in regular classrooms suggest less acceptance of the handicapped in comparison to normal peers (Baldwin 1958, Elser 1959, Force 1956, Goodman, Gottlieb, & Harrison 1972, Iano, Ayres, Heller, McGettigan, & Walker 1974, Johnson 1950, Johnson & Kirk 1950, Kennedy & Bruininks 1974, Rucker, Howe, & Snider 1969, Rucker & Vincenzo 1970). These findings have been extended to include learning disabled children (Bryan 1974, 1976). Learning disabled children (particularly white females) were significantly less attractive and were rejected more often than comparison children (Bryan 1974). F u r t h e r m o r e , the friendship and rejection patterns were maintained across time and classrooms (Bryan 1976). The elementary learning disabled children in the Bryan studies received special tutorial assistance from a learning disabilities teacher and stayed in the regular classroom for the remainder of the day. As Bryan suggested, such special treatment

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403 may have resulted in a stigma attached to the learning disabled children. If such a stigma did exist, it presented a variable that would confound the interpretation of the results of the study. Ideally, the effects of such a variable should be reduced or eliminated. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the social acceptance and rejection of learning disabled children in a setting where the "special child" stigma was less likely to exist.

METHODS Selection of Subjects All subjects attended the same school in a sparsely populated rural area. The construction of the building was designed to facilitate the elementary school's (grade levels kindergarten through 6) "open concept" instruction. Children moved from teacher to teacher and from suite to suite rather than being maintained in any particular grade-level classroom. Movement from one suite to another was contingent on ability and offering. Since all of the children moved frequently and did not necessarily know the destination of their classmates, the stigma of receiving special education services was kept to a minimum. The subjects in this study were associated with the primary (grade levels 1 to 3) suite during homeroom. Criteria for a classification as specific learning disability included the following: (1) Academic achievement in certain areas was markedly different from peers, while other areas were within the average range. (2) Intellectual functioning was within the average range. (3) Curriculum problems were associated with defects in the psychological processes such as attention, memory, concept formation, perception, discrimination, or language structure. (4) Deficits were not primarily a result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps of mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or educational disadvantage. (5) A pattern of distinct strengths and weaknesses in both curricular and psychological process areas was evident. 50

The 42 subjects received resource support services in the area of specific language and/or learning disability. Such services included perceptual motor training, individualized instruction, tutoring, and remedial instruction in reading, arithmetic, writing, spelling, and language. Each student was individually diagnosed by, or under the direction of, a psychologist and received all or part of these services. The ratio of girls to boys was higher in this study than that generally reported. No known systematic selection bias was operating. Each child classified as having a specific learning disability in this setting was included in the study. Control subjects were randomly selected after being matched to the learning disabled children by homeroom classroom.

Sociometric Ratings The procedures to determine sociometric status were similar to those used in other sociometric studies of handicapped children (Iano, Ayers, Heller, McGettigan, & Walker 1974, Johnson 1950). All children in the first through third grades were presented with the six questions listed and were asked to name classmates for each question. The first three questions indicated positive choices and the last three, negative choices. (1) Who are the children in your class that you like the best? (2) If you were to have your seats changed, who would you like to have sit in the seat next to you? (3) Who are the children in your class that you like to play with the best? (4) If you were to have your seats changed, who wouldn't you like to have in the seat next to you? (5) Who are the children in your class that you do not like to play with? (6) Who are the children in your class that you do not like? Although each student could name up to three choices per question, they were not forced to do so. The use of a forced choice approach can Journal of Learning Disabilities

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TABLE 1. Means and standard deviations on positive and negative sociometric items by type and sex.


Ne gative







Learning disabled Males Females

42 25 17

2.04 2.21 1.78

2.11 2.51 1.38

4.07 3.29 5.22

3.84 3.02 4.67

Control children Males Females

42 25 17

3.06 2.44 3.96

2.12 1.50 2.59

1.71 2.03 1.24

1.98 2.38 1.09

result in spurious results, particularly with the negative questions. After a two-week lapse the questions were administered a second time. For each item the raw score equaled the number of times a child was named by any of his peers. Mean positive and mean negative scores were generated for each child by summing up the three appropriate separate item raw scores and dividing by three. Only the reliability analyses used the second administration scores. Reliability of the individual questions on the sociometric rating over a two-week interval ranged from .63 to .87. Reliability of the mean of the positive items was .84 and for the mean of the negative items, .91.

RESULTS Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations for both the positive and negative items. A two-way analysis of variance on the mean positive items revealed a significant main effect by type (F(l,80) = 5,058, p ' O) ' O) ' CX> ' 0> T^ CM co ^f i i i i


Negative items, females


co TT



Negative items, males

FIGURE 2. The percentage of cases receiving various scores across six groupings for females and males on positive and negative items. Volume 12, Number 6, June/July 1979

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407 deviating significantly from expectation. One possible explanation that should be studied is that the range of acceptable alternatives is more restricted for girls and perhaps is more rigidly enforced. If this were true, it would be very interesting to determine if boys enforce the standards more than girls do, or vice versa. ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors wish to acknowledge the data collection assistance of Ms. H. Holdsworth and Mr. R. Eisenhower. ABOUT



Thomas R. Scranton received his doctorate from the University of Virginia. He is a special education teacher in the Bellevue (Washington) School District. David B. Ryckman received his doctorate at the University of Illinois. He is an associate professor at the College of Education, University of Washington. Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Ryckman, 101 Miller Hall DQ-12, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. 98195.

REFERENCES Baldwin, W.K., The social position of the educably mentally retarded child in the regular grades in the public schools.

Exceptional Children, 1958, 25, 106-108, 112. Bryan, T.H., Peer popularity of learning disabled children. Journal of teaming Disabilities, 1974, 7, 621-625. Bryan, T., Peer popularity of learning disabled children: A replication. Journal of teaming Disabilities, 1976, 9, 307311. Elser, R., The social position of hearing handicapped children in the regular grades. Exceptional Children, 1959, 25, 305309. Force, D.G., Social status of physically handicapped children. Exceptional Children, 1956, 23, 104-107, 132-133. Goodman, H., Gottlieb, J., Harrison, R.H., Social acceptance of EMRs integrated into a nongraded elementary school. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 1972, 76, 412-417. lano, R., Ayres, D., Heller, H., McGettigan, J., Walker, V., Sociometric status of retarded children in an integrative program. Exceptional Children, 1974, 40, 267-271. Johnson, G.O., A study of the social position of mentally handicapped children in the regular grades. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 1950, 55, 60-89. Johnson, G.O., Kirk, S.A., Are mentally handicapped children segregated in the regular grades? Exceptional Children, 1950,17, 65-68, 87-88. Kennedy, P., Bruininks, R.H., Social status of hearing impaired children in regular classrooms. Exceptional Children, 1974, 40, 336-342. Rucker, C.N., Howe, C.E., Snider, B., The acceptance of retarded children in junior high academic and non-academic regular classes. Exceptional Children, 1969, 35, 617-623. Rucker, C.N., Vincenzo, F.M., Maintaining social acceptance gains made by mentally retarded children. Exceptional Children, 1970, 36, 679-680.

Conference Calendar Aug. 13-15, 1979 — "Focus on Children" is the theme of the first international symposium of the American Montessori Society to be held in Athens, Greece. For further information contact the American Montessori Society, 150 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10011. Sept. 1-5, 1979 — 87th annual convention of the American Psychological Association will be held in New York City, N.Y. For more information contact the public information office of the APA, 1200 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Sept. 14-15, 1979 — 4th annual conference on language development sponsored by the Boston University School of Education, George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass. Oct. 5-6,1979 — National Conference on Learning Disabilities sponsored by the Division for 54

Children with Learning Disabilities. For more information contact DCLD, P.O. Box 43027, Louisville, Ky. 40243. (See News for details.) Oct. 12-13, 1979 — Annual state conference of the Missouri Association for Children with Learning Disabilities will be held at the Marriott Pavilion Hotel, St. Louis, Mo. Early registration rate is $32 for both days. Contact MACLD Conference, #42 Woodcliffe Rd., St. Louis, Mo. 63124. Oct. 13, 1979 — Ninth annual workshop of the Michigan Speech Pathologists in Clinical Practice (MSPCP), Mercy Center, 28600 Eleven Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Mich. For more information contact the Visiting Nurse Association Northern Rehabilitation Office, 47 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit, Mich. Oct. 31-Nov. 3,1979 — 30th national conference of The Orton Society, Indianapolis, Ind. Journal of Learning Disabilities

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Sociometric status of learning disabled children in an integrative program.

402 Sociometric Status of Learning Disabled Children in an Integrative Program Thomas R. Scran ton, EdD, and David B. Rye km an, EdD The sociometri...
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