Social Coordination as a Component of Social Competence in Young Children with Disabilities
Focus on exceptional children
Substantial evidence shows that young children with disabilities frequently have difficulty with social interaction (Guralnick & Weinhouse, 1984) . Although the interactions of children with disabilities and their peers do not seem to be any more negative than the interactions of nondisabled children and their peers, evidence suggests that the overall frequency of interactions is much lower (Beckman, 1983; Guralnick, 1990; Guralnick & Weinhouse, 1984) . For example, Beckman (1983) found that
... 1983) found that preschool children with disabilities engaged in fewer and shorter behavior chains than their nondisabled peers. One reason may be that longer interchanges depend on more sophisticated social skills including the ability to coordinate social behavior with that of a partner. From our perspective, social coordination should be distinguished from social interaction. Whereas social interaction includes any exchange that occurs between partners, social coordination requires additional sophistication. In this article we review what is currently known about social coordination in young children with disabilities. A discussion of the role of social coordination in developing social competence is followed by a description of how social coordination develops in children with and without disabilities. Next we discuss how available assessments of social skills address the concept of social coordination. Finally we identify intervention strategies that may be useful in facilitating social coordination. THE IMPORTANCE OF COORDINATING SOCIAL BEHAVIOR One important component of social competence that is associated with more sophisticated behavioral exchanges between children involves the ability to coordinate behavior with that of a partner. For example, social coordination occurs when a toddler looks at her partner, points to a toy, makes a sound, then looks back at her partner. The toddler and her partner are simultaneously coordinating their attention to each other and to an object. Thus, social coordination requires the ability to coordinate the focus of attention, the timing, and the sequence of behaviors with that of a social partner.