First Advisor

Mueller, Tracy G.

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Social skill deficits can serve as barriers to the achievement of postsecondary transition goals among young adults with intellectual disabilities. In order to support this population of students with achieving their postsecondary transition goals, educators should enhance the social skills of students with intellectual disabilities in a manner that is generalizable across settings students are likely to encounter as young adults. The present study targeted conversational skills, crucial components of social interaction, through explicit instruction using role-play with three college students with intellectual disabilities. A multiple baseline across participants design was used in this study to examine the effectiveness of explicit instruction using role-play on enhancing participants’ conversational skills related to elaborating on responses and asking questions during conversations with peers as well as generalizing these skills across settings. For each participant, the mean frequency of both elaborating on responses and asking questions during conversations with peers increased during the intervention phase of this research study. Among all three participants, increases in mean frequency related to both elaborating on responses and asking questions during conversations with peers were also observed during generalization probes within campus dining halls. Results of this study suggest explicit instruction using role-play can enhance the conversational skills of young adults with intellectual disabilities. In addition, providing instruction within social settings young adults with intellectual disabilities frequently encounter during their daily lives can enhance skill generalization related to recently acquired conversational skills. Specifically, results of this study suggest that providing instruction within naturalistic settings facilitates students’ generalization of social skills through access to naturally occurring reinforcement contingencies. This dissertation presented strategies including explicit instruction and role-play provided within naturalistic settings in order to increase student engagement and instructional relevance during social skills instruction.


intellectual disability, naturalistic settings, skill generalization, social skills


145 pages

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