Skip Navigation

Social Behavior

Morrier, M. J., McGee, G. G., & Daly, T. (2009). Effects of toy selection and arrangement on the social behaviors of an inclusive group of preschool-aged children with and without autism. Early Childhood Services, 3, 157-177.
Abstract: Current standards for identifying quality early childhood programs (e.g., NAEYC, ECERS) provide guidance on classroom play materials, but little research has focused on the interface between toy selection and arrangement and its effects on children’s behavior and social interactions. This study examined the effects of toy selection and arrangement on four positive and five negative social behaviors of 15 preschoolers in an inclusive classroom for children with autism and typically developing children. Three conditions were under investigation (a) conventional material package, featuring items recommended by teachers in NAEYC accredited programs, (b) systematic materials package developed to include sensory preferences and logistical considerations, and (c) enhanced materials package that featured more frequent rotation of items. Results indicate that systematic material selection and arrangement is significantly related to increased frequency of several positive social behaviors and decreased frequency of negative behaviors. The systematic and enhanced materials packages were superior to the conventional package for all variables studied. In summary, embedding systematic arrangements of toys and play materials into existing standards for high quality early childhood classrooms yielded desirable improvements in the social behaviors of all children in an inclusive classroom.

McGee, G., & Morrier, M. (2003). Clinical implications of research in nonverbal behavior of children with autism. In P. Philippot, R. S. Feldman, & E. J. Coats (Eds.), Nonverbal behavior in clinical settings (pp. 287-317). New York: Oxford University Press.
Abstract currently unavailable.

Strain, P. S., McGee, G. G., & Kohler, F. W. (2001). Inclusion of children with autism in early intervention environments: An examination of rationale, myths, and procedures. In M. J. Guralnick (Ed.), Early childhood inclusion: Focus on change (pp. 337-363). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Abstract currently unavailable.

McGee, G. G, (2000). Social intervention yields positive response. Advocate, May-June, 26-29.
Abstract currently unavailable.

McGee, G. G., Feldman, R. S., & Morrier, M. J. (1997). Benchmarks for social treatment for children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27, 353-364.
Abstract: Data on the social behavior of typical children may inform practitioners and researchers regarding the appropriate goals of intervention for children with autism. This study assessed the ongoing levels of naturally occurring social behavior in 64 preschool-aged children. A 2 x 2 factorial design was used to analyze population (children with autism and typical children) and age (3 years 3 months vs. 4 years 4 months) differences at the time of preschool entry. Predictable population differences were found for key social behaviors of proximity to children, social bids from children, and focus of engagement on children, as well as for behavioral context variables of verbalizations, adult focus, and atypical behaviors. No differences were found in the amount of time spent focused on toys or objects. There were also no differences in the presenting behaviors of younger and older children with autism. Results are discussed in terms of implications for establishing early social intervention goals.

Feldman, R. S., McGee, G. G., Mann, L., & Strain, P. (1993). Nonverbal affective decoding ability in children with autism and in typical preschoolers. Journal of Early Intervention, 17, 341-350.
Abstract: Twelve male children with autism and twelve male typical children viewed a series of videotaped vignettes in which two interacting children displayed differing facial expressions of happiness, sadness, or anger. To test their skills in decoding nonverbal facial expressions, participants were asked which of the two children was displaying a particular expression. Results showed that typical children were more accurate in their decoding of expressions than were children with autism for each of the three emotions studied. However, the children with autism did show certain decoding ability: they were able to identify happiness vignettes at above-chance levels. The results have implications for assessing and ultimately remediating nonverbal skill deficits in children with autism.

McGee, G. G., Paradis, T., & Feldman, R. S. (1993). Free effects of integration on levels of autistic behavior. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 13, 57-67.
Abstract: The trend toward full inclusion of young children with autism raises questions as to whether there are any “free,” or unplanned, benefits of integration. This study explored whether differing levels of autistic behavior were associated with the presence of typical children or with the presence of other children with autism. Participants included 28 preschool-age children with autism. Videotaped observations of naturally occurring behavior were coded on measures of: (a) levels of autistic behavior, (b) the presence of typical peers, and (c) the presence of other children with autism. An ANOVA indicated that significantly decreased levels of autistic behavior corresponded to the close availability of typical peers. Because the database was obtained at the time of children’s entry into treatment, it is unlikely that the results were directly related to treatment interventions. However, practices of full inclusion of children with autism may yield additional unplanned treatment benefits.

McGee, G. G., Almeida, M. C., Sulzer-Azaroff, B., & Feldman, R. S. (1992). Promoting reciprocal interactions via peer incidental teaching. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 117-126.
Abstract: This study evaluated peer incidental teaching as a strategy for increasing reciprocal peer interactions by children with autism. Three typical preschoolers were trained as peer tutors for 3 young children with autism. During a classroom free-play session, peer tutors used incidental teaching to obtain verbal labels of preferred toys by children with autism. A multiple baseline across the 3 target children showed replicated positive effects of the intervention. Adult supervision and assistance were then faded systematically, with resulting maintenance of increased reciprocal interactions. Multiple measures of the extent and limits of generalization suggested that 1 child increased interactions in free-play periods throughout the day, but none of the children showed increases at lunch. Teacher and peer ratings supported the social validity of positive findings.

McGee, G. G., Feldman, R. S., & Chernin, L. (1991). A comparison of emotional facial display by children with autism and typical preschoolers. Journal of Early Intervention, 15, 237-245.
Abstract: This study compared, within the context of a socially integrated preschool, the nonverbal emotional expressions of young children with autism to those of typical children. Measures were taken of happy, sad, angry, and neutral facial expressions, and of the environmental contexts in which these emotional displays occurred. Comparison groups were five children with autism and five typical children, matched for chronological age. The results indicated that children with autism were similar to typical children in the frequency of their emotional displays, with both groups spending the majority of time in a neutral stance. However, the two groups of youngsters displayed differing facial expressions in various situations; specifically, children with autism displayed happy, sad, and angry faces during incongruent contextual events. These findings have both diagnostic and educational implications.

McGee, G. G., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E. (1984). Conversational skills for autistic adolescents: Teaching assertiveness in naturalistic game settings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 14, 319-330.
Abstract: A naturalistic social skills training program was used to teach assertive responses to three autistic adolescents. Training and assessment of positive and negative assertions occurred in the context of two game situations – a card game and a ball game. Training consisted of modeling and behavioral rehearsal prior to each game, with tokens delivered contingent on assertive responses. Evaluation of training effects was accomplished in a multiple baseline across response classes. The results demonstrated the effectiveness of the procedure in generating high levels of positive and negative assertions that maintained across a 4.5-month follow-up interval. This in vivo procedure for teaching social behaviors permits the concurrent acquisition of assertive responses and leisure behaviors, two skills that are of special importance in improving the quality of autistic youth’s experiences with their peers.