Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Socially skilled behaviour is a critical factor in an individual's ability to secure and maintain employment. Due to the very nature of their handicap, persons with mental retardation often exhibit social skills deficits, thus restricting access to competitive employment and the status of full membership in society that such employment facilitates. Previous attempts to train socially skilled behaviour in persons with mental retardation have been hampered by the lack of a valid assessment tool to evaluate program effectiveness and inform program content. The purpose of this paper was to develop such an instrument by extending work done by Lagreca, Stone & Bell (1982) which utilized Goldfried & D'Zurilla's (1969) behaviour-analytic model of social skill assessment. This research was to also evaluate the validity of the assessment tool developed. However, data collected from the first phase of the study suggested that within the workshop setting, individuals responsible for placement of trainees in competitive employment rated situations distinctly different than did those individuals who were responsible for counselling or instructing trainees. This finding jeopardized the validity of the project and it was therefore halted. In recognition that the two groups within the workshop setting, placement staff and counsellor/instructors, would need to understand their differing perspectives of persons with mental retardation before a social skills program could be developed, a further review of the literature was conducted. It was argued that motivational contingencies were different between competitive placements and the workshop environment and this could influence the behaviours observed in the two environments. Further, organizational contingencies could also influence the perspectives of the two groups, placement vs. counsellor/instructors. While data from this study could not support either argument, it did indicate that placement staff viewed the potential of mentally retarded to resolve difficult situations more positively than did the counsellors/instructors. Previous research has based inventories of problematic situations on either competitive employers input or on counsellor/instructors input. The resulting emphasis of one group or the other fails to a) recognize the importance of social validity of the training program in both the competitive and workshop: and, b) fails to address the motivational and organizational contingencies influencing the behaviours of both the individuals with mental retardation and the staff serving them. The final outcome of the study for the workshop was the recognition that a social skills training program was necessary but that the two groups would need to negotiate the objectives for the program more clearly.

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