, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 277-293

Academic and environmental effects of small group arrangements in classrooms for students with autism and other developmental disabilities

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The use of small group instructional formats with children who have autism and developmental disabilities has received mixed results in the research literature (Reid & Favell, 1984). The purpose of the two studies reported herein was to address this controversy by comparing the performance of students in one-to-one instruction to those transitioned to small groups for a variety of teachers, students, settings, and under different training circumstances. In the first study, 41 students, ranging in age from 5 to 21 years old, from six classrooms, participated; and 25 students from six classrooms participated in the second study. Measures of environmental effects included academic gains via pre- and posttests, on-task and self-stimulatory behavior levels, correct responding, and frequencies of teacher behaviors during both one-to-one and small group formats. Results of both experiments indicated that students were able to successfully transition to small group formats across several curriculum areas including language, math, readiness, and shopping. Further, experienced teachers and administrators were able to train a second group of staff to use the small group procedures effectively. The successful application for this number of students and teachers within natural learning environments is unprecedented and provides important documentation for both the utility and practicality of small group instruction with students who have developmental disabilities.

This research was supported by Grant G008300068 from the U.S. Department of Education. The authors wish to express appreciation to administrators, teachers, and students in the Kansas City, Ks and Kansas City, Mo Public School Districts and to the Sherwood Center for Exceptional Children, Inc. for their participation and support. The research reported herein was based in part on the Doctoral Dissertation of the second author.