Conversational interactions between intellectually disabled and normal adolescents during a problem-solving task

Thumbnail Image
Okrainec, Johnee Alexa
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This investigation examined verbal disagreements arising between "mildly intellectually disabled" adolescents and their "normal-progress" peers during a problem-solving task, the Fort Walsh (CLASS, 1987) computer exercise. Recordings of 25 "mildly intellectually disabled"-"normal-progress" pairs (12 male and 13 female dyads) were made. Disagreements arising in this social studies lesson were identified and coded using an adaptation of Eisenberg's (1992) analysis scheme for verbal conflicts. Compared to the normal-progress learning partners, the mildly intellectually disabled adolescents demonstrated differences in the conversational strategies that they employed for negotiating disagreements. The normal-progress students initiated disagreements almost twice as often as the intellectually disabled students. The hypothesis that intellectually disabled students would initiate conflicts less frequently than normals was confirmed (p-value =.0005). Single-turn "compliance" exchanges occurred 48% of the time. Of these "compliance exchanges", 61.8% resulted when the normal-progress peer initiated opposition and the intellectually disabled student failed to pursue the conflict. Some differences in the speech acts opposed were apparent. Higher level conflict initiating moves were employed less frequently by the intellectually disabled students. Normal-progress peers used the "question/challenge" conflict initiating move significantly more frequently than their intellectually disabled counterparts (p-value =.0001). When the conflict initiating move was a "simple no", there was no evidence that conflicts continued beyond a single turn (p-value =.70). Conflicts initiated with a "justification" were marginally shorter than dissension episodes starting with "other" conflict initiation moves (p-value.0316). Conflicts initiated with an "alternative" were not shorter than conflicts initiated with "other" conflict initiating moves (p-value =.5218). Where negative affect was present, negative affect typically was demonstrated by both participants (p-value =.0479). "Standoff" was not a prevalent conflict outcome, occurring only 20.9% of the time. The hypothesis that the intellectually disabled student would submit more frequently was nonsignificant (p-value.0893). Normal-progress students did not take the last conversational turn significantly more often, (p-value.0784). Participants were administered: (a) the Test of Pragmatic Language (Phelps-Terasaki & Phelps-Gunn, 1992); and (b) a test of general language ability, the Test of Adolescent and Adult Language (Hammill, Brown, Larsen, & Wiederholt, 1994). Mildly intellectually disabled adolescents demonstrated pragmatic and general language impairments.