Perceptions and Strategies for Developing Social Competence in Children With ASD and Down Syndrome
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This qualitative research project sought to explore discrepancies between research-informed ideal strategies recommended by resource teachers (RTs) and actual strategies used by early childhood educators (ECEs) in a classroom in the Niagara region in Ontario. The exploratory research involved semi-structured individual interviews with 3 RTs and 1 ECE from the Niagara region childcare centres and organizations who participated in semi-structured individual interviews. This study identified strategies recommended by RTs and ECEs to improve social competency in children with ASD and Down syndrome. The finding of this study revealed that although the RTs’ recommended strategies were very similar to research-informed strategies found in the literature, the ECEs’ strategies differed from the ideal strategies. Some of the reasons reported by the ECEs as to why they used different strategies included teacher–child ratio, lack of professional training, and lack of relevant courses taken in college. Although it is essential that children with ASD and children with Down syndrome work on their peerrelationship skills (as it is their major impairment), it is equally important to address joint attention, communication, and emotion recognition skills, and to learn to follow classroom rules and a routine in order for school readiness. Developing these skills in early childhood is closely related to developing peer-relationship skills later on.