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Friendship Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities in Jordan from the Perspectives of Their Teachers and the Effect of Some Variables on It

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DOI: 10.4236/jss.2017.58011    169 Downloads   313 Views  

ABSTRACT

This study aimed to know the friendship skills of students with Learning Disabilities (LD) from the perspective of their teachers, and it aimed to investigate the effect of some variables on these skills. In order to achieve the aims of this study, checklist of friendship skills for students with LD was used to collect data about 300 students with LD (150 boys and 150 girls). The results indicated that about 69.3% - 70.7% from teachers of students with LD indicated that the students with LD have few friends or no friends. Also it indicates that there are significant differences between students with LD in the friendship skills due to gender to favor boys. And there are no significant differences between students with LD in the friendship skills due to age and interaction between gender and age.

1. Introduction

In the definition of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD), the learning disability is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance), or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences (Torgesen, 2004 [1] ).

The previous definition indicated that the students with learning disabilities may have problems in social skills and social competence. And in this context, many studies indicated to a lack of social skills for students with LD (Gresham & Reschly, 1986 [2] ; Swanson & Malone, 1992 [3] ; Mclntosh, Vaughn, Schumm, Haager & Lee, 1993 [4] ; Chappell, 1994 [5] ; Forness & Kavale, 1996 [6] ; Kavale & Forness, 1996 [7] ; Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Whitehouse, Chamberlain & O’Brien, 2001 [9] ; Larkin & Ellis, 2004 [10] ; Vaughn, Sinagub & Kim, 2004 [11] ; Wight & Chapparo, 2008 [12] ; Almeqdad, Bataineh & Al-Jarrah, 2011 [13] ). There indicated to on average, about 75% of students with LD manifest social skills deficit (Kavale & Forness, 1996 [7] ; Wight & Chapparo, 2008 [12] ). Positive social skills (Social Competence) lead to make and keep friends (Commonwealth of Australian, 2013 [14] ; Stephens, 2002 [15] ). The social competence is a board construct that includes a number of factors comprising 1) social skills, 2) relationships with other, including friendships and peer acceptance, 3) age-appropriate social cognition, including self-concept, and 4) behaviors that suggest adjustment or the absence of behavior associated with maladjustment (e.g., acting out, severe attention problems) (Vaughn & Elbaum, 1999 [16] ). Social competence for persons with learning disabilities is very important because it helps to learn and classroom participation (Wight & Chapparo, 2008 [12] ). But, there are studies indicated to a lack of social competence for persons with LD (Tur-Kaspa & Bryan, 1995 [17] ; Dyson, 2003 [18] ; Dzubak, 2015 [19] ). In this study, the focus will be on friendships for students with LD.

There is a study showed that children with reciprocated friends had higher social competence scores than children without reciprocated friends, also suggested that the number of reciprocated friendship was associated with the social competence (Vaughn, Azria, Krzysik, Caya, Bost, Newell & Kazura, 2000 [20] ). Friendship has been defined as the relationship between a pair of individuals who have positive feelings toward each others. Some researchers suggest that having even a single friend can buffer the negative impact of rejection or neglect by the larger peer group (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ). Friendship is very important for persons with LD. Because it is contribute development social skills (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ; Vandell & Hembree, 1994 [23] ; Wine, 1999 [24] ), Psychological growth, sense of security (Wine, 1999 [24] ), positive self-concept (Vandell & Hembree, 1994 [23] ; Wine, 1999 [24] ), and Improve academic skills and academic competence (Vandell & Hembree, 1994 [23] ). Lack of friends leads to low self-confidence and lack of sense of belonging (Chappell, 1994 [5] ). In general, many studies indicated that the students with LD often were generally less liked or accepted by their classmates than other students (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ). This may be due to lack of social skills, social competence and negative self-concept (Wiener, 2004 [25] ). There are characteristics of friendship for students with LD, such as:

1.1. Number of Friendship

Many studies have indicated that the persons with LD have few friends (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Morre & Carey, 2005 [26] ). In one study, 96% of students with learning disabilities listed at least one person as a best friend (Vaughn & Elbaum, 1999 [16] ), with about two-thirds of children indicating that they had six or more friends (Vaughn, Elbaum & Boardman, 2001 [27] ). There are studies indicated that the persons with LD have difficulties preventing them from making friends and, that for, reinforces their isolation (Chppell, 1994 [5] ; Vaughn & Elbaum, 1999 [16] ; Vaughn, Elbaum & Schumm, 1996 [28] ; Nunkoosing & John, 1997 [29] ; Tur-Kaspa, Margalit & Most, 1999 [30] ; Estell, Jones & Acker, 2009 [31] ). The difficulties that prevent persons with LD from making and keeping friends are: behavioral problems (Hoyle & Serafica, 1988 [32] ; Almakanin, Alabdallat & Anjadat, 2014 [33] ) like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD (Wiener, 2004 [25] ), researchers have consistently found an overlap of 10% to 25% between ADHD and LD (Forness & Kavale, 2001 [34] ), and Flicek (1992) [35] in his study, found that the serious problems with peers rejection, low popularity and mal social behavior were the most strongly related to the combination of ADHD and LD. Poverty prevents the persons with LD from making and keeping friends. Also the inadequate educational system encourages cooperation, negative attitudes toward students with LD and Language problems (Wiener, 2004 [25] ).

Wiener, Harris and Shirer (1990) [36] indicated in their study that the low achievement and rejection for student with LD by their peers is not help making friends. In this context, Bryan (1974) [37] was the first researcher to report that children with LD were more likely to be rejected by peers than children without LD. Which was confirmed in subsequent research (Swanson & Malone, 1992 [3] ; Kavale & Fomess, 1996 [7] ; Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Vandell & Hembree, 1994 [23] ; Vaughn et al., 1996 [28] ; Vaughn, Mclnemey, Schumm, Haager & Callwood, 1993 [38] ; Yu, Zang & Yan, 2005 [39] ). Also, most students with LD have low social status (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Wiener, 1987 [40] ; Stone & LaGreca, 1990 [41] ; Ochoa & Olivarez, 1995 [42] ). Some studies have shown that children with LD are less accepted by their peers, but are not rejected (Bruininks, 1978 [43] ; Gresham & Reschly, 1986 [2] ; Hoyle & Serafica, 1988 [32] ; Stone & LaGreca, 1990 [41] ; Yu, et al., 2005 [39] ). Peer rejection is related to social skills deficits such as inadequate social perception (Stiliadis & Wiener, 1989 [44] ), poorly developed conversational skills (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ), ADHD (Flicek, 1992 [35] ), and internalizing and externalizing behavior problems (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ). The peers’ acceptance for students with LD is very important; because it is correlated with a number of reciprocal friends and loneliness (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Wiener et al., 1990 [36] ; Gregg, Hoy, King, Moreland & Jaqota, 1992 [45] ; Whitehouse et al., 2001 [9] ; Yu et al., 2005 [39] ). But there are studies indicated that there is no loneliness for persons with LD (Vaughn et al., 1996 [28] ; Bear, Juvonen & Mclnerney, 1993 [46] ) and, they are social acceptable (Bear et al., 1993 [46] ). Finally, some studies indicated that there are no differences in the numbers of friends between persons with LD and persons without LD (Wine, 1999 [24] ; Vaughn, et al., 1996 [28] ; Vaughn, et al., 1993 [38] ; Bear et al., 1993 [46] ; Dudley-Marling & Edmiaston, 1985 [47] ; Juvonen & Bear, 1992 [48] ; Wenz- Gross & Siperstein, 1997 [49] ; Fleming, Cook & Stone, 2002 [50] ; Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ).

In this context, many studies have indicated to the students with LD are less popular than their peers without LD (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Wiener et al., 1990 [36] ; Bryan, 1974 [37] ; Stone & La Greaca, 1990 [41] ; Bruininks, 1978 [43] ; Juvonen & Bear, 1992 [48] ). And about social networks of students with LD, although students with LD may be in a social group but, their role and position are marginal (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ).

Generally, friendship requires some things like: personal strength, high intelligence, and sport skills. And persons who have these things have a popularity and a large number of friends (Wiener, 2004 [25] ).

1.2. Friendship Quality

Friendships quality of persons with LD is an area of concern (Wiener, 2004 [25] ), the few studies on this topic suggest that these students may, in fact experience friendships of lower quality (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ; Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Bruininks, 1978 [43] ; Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ). According to the age friends of persons with LD, there is an indication that friends of persons with LD are younger than them, this may be due to the lack of social maturity and competence (Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ). In general, children without LD were more likely to interact with their friends at school, while children with LD were more likely to interact with their friends of their home (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ). Also students with LD have friends with LD (Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ; Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Estell, Jones & Acker, 2009 [31] ), or do not go to school (dropouts) (Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ).

1.3. The Continuation and Stability of Friendship

Many studies have indicated that the persons with LD keeping a few friends over time (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Estell, Jones & Acher 2009 [31] ; Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ). There is an indication that the friendship among students with LD in adolescence is more stable than childhood (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ) and at the university stage, students with LD reported that they had more stable friendships than students without LD (Shany, Wiener & Assido, 2013 [52] ).

1.4. Friendships and Gender

Several studies have indicated that there are differences in friendship due to the gender (Buhrmester & Fuman, 1987 [53] ; Aukett, Ritchie & Mill, 1988 [54] ; Elkins & Peterson, 1993 [55] ; Parker & Asher, 1993 [56] ; Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ; Mjaavatn, Frostad & Pijl, 2016 [26] ), according to the number of friends, there are studies indicated that there are differences in number of friends due to the gender (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ; Aukett, Ritchie & Mill, 1988 [54] ; Elkins & Peterson, 1993 [55] ; Parker & Asher, 1993 [56] ; Mjaavatn, Frostad & Pijl, 2016 [26] ). Hoosen-Shakeel (1997) [22] pointed out in his study that the boys with LD have more friends than girls with LD. By contrast, Parker and Asher (1993) [56] found that girls have more reciprocal friend than boys.

The quality of friendships and gender, boys with LD were significantly more likely to nominate friends who are least two years younger. And according to parent’s reports, boys with LD are more likely than girls with LD or children without LD to have friends who are family members. Also boys with LD were more likely to interact with their friends in the neighborhood or on the street (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ). According to the continuation and stability of friendship, the researchers suggested that girls seek to end intimate in friendships at younger ages than boys (Buhrmester & Fuman, 1987 [43] ). In contrast, there is an indication that the girls with and without LD were significantly more likely than boys to interact with their nominated friends by telephone almost every day (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ).

1.5. Friendship and Age

There are studies that have indicated differences in friendship skills due to age (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Estell & Jones, 2009 [31] ; Shany et al., 2013 [52] ) Buhrmester & fuman, 1987 [53] ; Fox, Gibbs & Auerbach, 1985 [57] ) There is a sign that friendship skills are improving with age, and become more stable (Shany et al., 2013 [52] ; Fox et al., 1985 [57] ). Kuhne’s study (1999) [8] indicates that friendship in adolescence is more stable than in childhood. In contrast, there is a sign that persons with LD have fewer friends over time (Estell & Jones, 2009 [31] ). There is an indication that the friendship among students with LD in adolescence is more stable than childhood (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ) and at the university stage, students with LD reported that they had more stable friendships than students without LD (Shany et al., 2013 [52] ).

1.6. Assessment of Friendship Skills

There are many ways to assess friendship skills such as: self-report, parents-re- port and teachers-report (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ). This study was studied friendship skills for students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers. From the above, and because many studies have indicated that there are problems in the friendship skills for persons with LD, and also the importance of friendship skills for students with LD. This study came and its questions are:

First: How are the friendship skills of students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers?

Second: Are there any statistically significant differences between students with LD in the friendship skills due to (gender, age and gender × age)?

2. Methods

This descriptive study describes the friendship skills of students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers. It is also a comparative study, to see the differences in the friendship skills depending on variables (gender, age and gender × age).

2.1. Study Participants

The numbers of participants in this study were 300 students with LD from Jordan, Age (8 - 10 years) from the second-fourth grades. They were randomly selected from all schools of Jordan. Table 1 shows the demographic characteristics of the participants in this study.

2.2. Study Instrument

Checklist of friendship skills of students with LD was used to measure friendship skills for students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers. And to investigates the effect of variables (gender, age and gender × age) on these skills. The study instrument was developed by researcher it finally consisted of (20) items (positive & negative). The content validity for the checklist was established, also computed reliability of the checklist by Cronbachalpha’s formula it was (0.716). The highest score on the checklist is 40, the score on the negative items (there are no friends, has social problems, less popular and rejected by his peers) were calculated as the following (yes = 1 and no = 2). And scores on the positive items (has friends or a few friends) were calculated as the following (yes = 2 and no = 2).

3. Data Collection and Analysis

Applied checklist on the students with LD age (8 - 10) from the second-fourth grades. Special education students at Mu’tah University, who live in different cities of Jordan, helped a researcher in collecting the data. These students distributed the checklists on the teachers of special education for students with LD in

Table 1. Demographics of participants (n = 300).

the resource rooms. Teachers responded to items of the checklist from their perspectives, and some items, required a direct question from teacher to student. After collecting a number of checklists, the study sample was selected randomly. For analysis data, to answer the first question of the study “How are the friendship skills of students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers?” frequencies and percentage for the responses of study participants on each item were computed. To answer the second question “Are there any statistically significant differences between students with LD in the friendship skills due to (gender, age and gender × age)?” 2 way ANOVA test was used to know differences in friendship skills of students with LD.

4. Results and Discussion

To answer the first question “How are the friendship skills of students with LD from the perspectives of their teachers?” frequencies and percentages for the responses of study participants on each item were computed. Table 2 shows that.

Table 2 shows that the perspectives for teachers about friendship for students with LD varying and different. According item 1 “he or she does not have friends”, about 70.7% of respondent indicated that students with LD have not friends. This result agrees with the results of studies (Chppell, 1994 [5] ; Vaughn & Elbaum, 1999 [16] ; Vaughn, Elbaum & Schumm, 1996 [28] ; Nunkoosing & John, 1997 [29] ; Tur-Kaspa, Margalit & Most, 1999 [30] ; Estell, Jones & Acker, 2009 [31] ). These indicated that the students with LD have problems in making and keeping of friends. This leads them to feeling of loneliness. The reason of don’t have friends for students with LD-based on the previous studies is that students with LD have different problems that prevent them from making and keeping friends. In this study, about 80% of teachers indicated that students with LD do not participate in social activities in the school (item 2), and about 54% from them, indicated that the students with LD have isolation and social withdrawal (item 3). These results relate with social skills and competence, and agree with results of studies of (Gresham & Reschly, 1986 [2] ; Swanson & Malone, 1992 [3] ; Mclntosh, et al., 1993 [4] ; Chappell, 1994 [5] ; Forness & Kavale, 1996 [6] ; Kavale & Forness, 1996 [7] ; Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Whitehouse, Chamberlain & O’Brien, 2001 [9] ; Larkin & Ellis, 2004 [10] ; Vaughn, Sinagub & Kim, 2004 [11] ; Wight & Chapparo, 2008 [12] ; Almeqdad, Bataineh & Al-Jarrah, 2011 [13] ; Tur-Kaspa & Bryan, 1995 [17] ; Dyson, 2003 [18] ; Dzubak, 2015 [19] ). The positive social skills (social competence) lead to make and keep friends (Commonwealth of Australian, 2013 [14] ; Stephens, 2002 [15] ). Problems in social skills and social competence are may be reason of why the students with LD don’t have friends.

According to item 4, about 69.3% from teachers indicated that the students with LD have few friends. This results agree with results of these studies (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Vaughn & Elbaum, 1999 [16] ); Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Morre & Carey, 2005 [26] ; Vaughn, et al., 2001 [27] . And disagree with the results of studies

Table 2. Frequencies and percentages for the responses of study participants on each item.

*Negative item. Some teachers did not respond on the items.

(Wine, 1999 [24] ; Vaughn et al., 1996 [28] ), which indicated that there were no differences between students with and without LD in friendship skills and number of friends. The difference between the results of the current study and the results of these studies are due: different size samples, ways of assessment of friendship skills, educational style in the schools and attitudes for teachers and peers toward student with LD.

The results indicated that about 58.3% of the teachers indicated that the students with LD were not acceptable and rejected. This result agree with results of these studies: (Gresham & Reschly, 1986 [2] ; Swanson & Malone, 1992 [3] ; Kavale & Fomess, 1996 [7] ; Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Vandell & Hembree, 1994 [23] ; Vaughn et al., 1996 [28] ; Hoyle & Serafica, 1988 [32] ; Bryan, 1974 [37] ; Vaughn, et al., 1993 [38] ; Yu, Zang & Yan, 2005 [39] ; Stone & LaGreca, 1990 [41] ; Bruininks, 1978 [43] ). Most of these studies are similar to the current study in age of the participants, so the results are similar.

Items (7, 8, 12, 16) relate to the quality of friendship, 64.3% from teachers indicated that the friends of students with LD also had LD. 63% indicated that the friends of students with LD are younger than them, 69.3% indicated that the friends of student with LD are close relatives them. Finally, 57.3% from teachers indicated that friends of students with LD have behavioral problems. In general, these results agree with results of these studies: (Pearal & Donahue, 2004 [21] ; Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Estell, Jones & Acker, 2009 [31] ; Bruininks, 1978 [43] ; Wiener & Schneider, 2002 [51] ). Most of these studies are similar to the current study at the age of the participants, so the results are similar. According item 13, 71% at teachers indicated that students with LD were sensitive in interactions with others. This prevents them to make and keep friends. This result agrees with result of study of Hoosen-Shakeel (1997) [22] , which indicated that the internal problems may prevent to make and keep friends.

“To answer the second question” Are there any statistically significant differences between students with LD in the friendship skills due to: (gender, age, gender × age?). Means and Std. Deviations for the responses of study participants were computed. Table 3 shows that.

Table 3 shows that there are virtual differences between students with LD in friendship. To know if these differences are statistically significant, 2-way ANOVA was applied. Table 4 shows that.

Table 4 shows that there are significant differences between students with LD in the friendship due to gender to favor boys; this means that boys are better than girls in their friendship skills. This result agrees with results of these studies (Hoosen-Shakeel, 1997 [22] ; Mjaavatn, Frostad & Pijl, 2016 [26] ; Buhrmester & Fuman, 1987 [43] ; Buhrmester & Fuman, 1987 [53] ; Aukett, Ritchie & Mill, 1988 [54] ; Elkins & Peterson, 1993 [55] ; Parker & Asher, 1993 [56] ). Which these results indicated that there are differences in the friendship due to the gender. Also this result disagrees with the result of Parker and Asher study (1993) [56] whose are found that girls have more reciprocal friend than boys. This result needs further studies.

The second result, there are no significant differences between students with LD in friendship due to age. This result disagrees with results of these studies:

Table 3. Means and Std. deviations for the responses of study participants.

Table 4. Results of 2-way ANOVA.

*Statistically significant at the level of significance (P ≤ 0.05).

(Kuhne, 1999 [8] ; Estell & Jones, 2009 [31] ; Shany et al., 2013 [52] ) Buhrmester & fuman, 1987 [53] ; Fox, Gibbs & Auerbach, 1985 [57] ). The result of the current study disagrees with results of previous studies which indicated that there are differences in friendship due to age. The cause of differences may be due to the different age of participants in each study. Also because of the ages of the participants in the current study are ranges (8 - 10) years and these ages are difficult to assess friendship skills for them, because these skills developed with the age. The last result in Table 4 is that there are no differences between students with LD in friendship due to the interaction between gender and age.

5. Implications and Conclusions

- Generally, the results of the current study showed that there are problems in friendship among students with LD, especially in the number of friends or quality of friends. The stability of friendship has not been studied in the current study, so the future research trends are the study continuity and stability by parents-report or self-report.

- The current study confirms that although children with LD are often considered to be a heterogeneous group, they are always situated in specific social surrounding such as schools and families with which they interact dynamically in everyday life. Therefore, peer acceptance and family functioning may be related to the loneliness experienced by children with LD. This needs further research.

- The current study was based on a teachers-reports for friendship of students with LD, and there is an indication that the teachers-reports may be, low and biased (Ala’am, 2011) [58] . This requires further studies in more than one way by self-reports and parents-reports.

- Lacks of social skills or social problems lead to failure in the making and keeping friends. And social skills of students with LD can improve and develop. But this requires providing counseling programs (Kuhne, 1999 [8] ) aimed at improving self-concept, self-acceptance and social competence for students with LD. Also, teaching strategies such as collaborative learning and peer teaching can also help to improve social skills and thus help students with LD to make friends (Wiener, 2004 [25] ; Morre & Carrey, 2005 [26] ).

- In this study, the effect of the interaction between gender and age on friendship skills of students with LD was studied. According to the results of this study, the interaction did not affect on friendship skills. And this needs further research and study.

- About 10% - 25% of students with LD have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD); this leads to problems in friendship skills and this requires programs in behavior management.

- Finally, the planned inclusion and positive educational environment meet academic and social needs of students with LD (Whitehouse et al., 2001 [9] ; Kingner, Vaughn, Schumm, Cohen & Forgan, 1998 [59] ; Madge, Affleck & Lowenbraun, 1990 [60] ; Wiener & Tardif, 2004 [61] ). This means that the attitudes must be positive towards students with LD.

Cite this paper

Tarawneh, R. (2017) Friendship Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities in Jordan from the Perspectives of Their Teachers and the Effect of Some Variables on It. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 5, 136-150. doi: 10.4236/jss.2017.58011.

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