According to BYU professor Blake Hansen, children with developmental and intellectual disabilities are one of the most understudied populations in the US, but he’s working to change that.
Hansen, a counseling psychology and special education professor, developed a unique study, published in Remedial and Special Education and found that the key for those with disabilities was self monitoring.
“The most exciting part of that study's findings is that children with the most significant behavioral challenges can monitor and evaluate their behavior,” Hansen said, “and this change maintains over a long period of time.”
In the study, Hansen identified students with intellectual disabilities who would benefit from self-monitoring techniques. The technique was simple. Each time the student followed the teacher’s directions, or complied, the student who was self-monitoring put a sticker in a square on their progress sheet. Once a specified number of squares on the sheet were filled, the student was rewarded with either a break from studies or a desired toy.
The implementation of these self-monitoring techniques is composed of two parts, the teacher modeling the techniques and the students implementing the techniques. Results of the study were extremely positive with all students in the study improving their compliant behavior. Something small like a student putting away a toy when their teacher asks them might seem small, but for these children with disabilities, it’s a big step.
Two important outcomes of the study are first, the teacher’s workload is lessened as self monitoring takes place, and second, the better the students became at monitoring their compliant behaviors, the more they displayed compliant behaviors.
“Self-monitoring is one of the best skills for these students to learn,” Hansen said. “It is not only important in schools, but in finding jobs. It improves these students’ quality of life.”
Hansen and his former undergraduate research assistants, Jamie Wadsworth and Sarah Wills, will continue in this line of self-monitoring research and agreed that the outcomes demonstrate the feasibility of implementing the technique on a large scale.
“I'm hoping to scale-up this research and focus on self-monitoring strategies in other teaching settings with other children with developmental disabilities,” Hansen said. “I'd like to see if self-monitoring improves self-control.”