Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Post by Ezra Lockhart: The Negative Impact of Social Functioning Deficits on Adult Outcomes: The Broader Effect of Loneliness

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our next guest writer, Ezra Lockhart. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met Ezra through LinkedIn and he has graciously agreed to share a guest post with us on Nathan's Voice. Please give him a warm welcome and I encourage you to leave him a comment at the end of his post!

The more substantial hindrance for many people with developmental disability is not the academic deficits, but the social deficits that isolates them from their peers (Osman & Blinder, 1982). Undoubtedly, social isolation and peer rejection can lead to feelings of loneliness (Margalit & Al-Yagon, 2002). Deficits in social skills contribute considerably to creating socially isolated environments and situations. Moreover, these social functioning deficits negatively affect adult outcomes and are implicated as contributors to patterns of unemployment and underemployment, lack of friendships and romantic relationships, and low rates of independent living in adults with developmental disability (Farley et al., 2009). Indeed, with impacts to these adult outcomes loneliness is a problem for people with developmental disability.

Developing support for social functioning and participation is important not only to address the issue of loneliness, but to positively impact outcomes in a variety of areas (i.e., school, family life, employment, recreation, community resources, independent living, etc.). There is a contemporary trend for support to be developed specifically as early intervention and implemented in early childhood educational settings. There is a consensus that this approach provides the most benefit to the individual throughout their life span. The benefits of early intervention are apparent, unfortunately, there are generations of adults that have surpassed support designed for traditional educational settings and for younger populations. Therefore it is imperative to develop and implement support for social functioning and participation in varying environments frequently encountered by adults with developmental disability that is attuned for situational encounters with their age-appropriate peer groups. In other words, social support interventions need expanded to account for family, community, employment, independent living, and recreational settings. This will aid in addressing the issue of loneliness as well as increasing social communication skills necessary for access to resources in these varied settings.

In conjunction with developing adult interventions that address age-appropriate environments and situational encounters, it is important to address the following factors identified as predicting social difficulties and loneliness experiences among persons with developmental disability. Researchers (e.g. Margalit & Al-Yagon, 2002) identified three main predicting factors: a) the knowledge deficit (Pearl, 1992), b) the performance deficit (Vaughn & La Greca, 1992), and c) rejected and loneliness behavioral styles (Margalit, 1994). Pearl (1992) describes the knowledge deficit as the lack of age-appropriate knowledge needed to develop social relationships. Vaughn and La Greca (1992) describe the performance deficit as the lack of ability to translate age-appropriate knowledge into effective social behaviors. Lastly, Margalit (1994) describes rejected and loneliness behavioral styles as individuals accepting the reputation and characteristics of isolated individuals and adopting such behaviors. These deficiencies in social functioning and maladaptive behavioral styles inhibit the individual from establishing social relationships. Their self-concept and beliefs in their inability to develop social relationships needs to be addressed in future support models.

In a final analysis, loneliness is a distinct issue adversely affecting people with developmental disability. Addressing this concern will require interventions that are delivered in various age-appropriate settings. Furthermore, reforming self-concept, beliefs, and behavioral styles for persons with developmental disability will be integral to establishing healthy attitudes and actions conducive to building and maintaining social relationships.

Farley, M. A., McMahon, W. M., Fombonne, E., Jenson, W. R., Miller, J., Gardner, M., ... & Coon, H. (2009). Twenty-year outcome for individuals with autism and average or near-average cognitive abilities. Autism Research, 2(2), 109-118.
Margalit, M., & Al-Yagon, M. (2002). The loneliness experience of children with learning disabilities. In B. Y. Wong & M. L. Donahue (Eds.), The social dimensions of learning disabilities: Essays in honor of Tanis Bryan (pp.53-75). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Osman, B. B., & Blinder, H. (1982). A note. In B. Osman & H. Blinder No one to play with: The social side of learning disabilities (pp. ixx). New York: Random House.
Pearl, R. (1992). Psychosocial characteristics of learning disabled students. In N. N. Singh & I. L. Beale (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Wiley.
Vaughn, S., & La Greca, A. M. (1992). Beyond greetings and making friends: Social skills from a broader perspective. In Y. L. Wong (Ed.), Contemporary intervention research in learning disabilities: An international perspective (pp. 94-114). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.

Ezra Lockhart, MHlthSc(DD) candidate, MCSE, AC has worked one-on-one with over 50 individuals who experience a wide range of physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities. In 2004, he started assisting adults with various physical disabilities. In 2011, he specialized in providing home- and community-based behavioral supports for individuals who live on the autistic spectrum. In 2014, he expanded to provide milieu and group therapy (e.g., psychoeducational, skill development, cognitive-behavioral) for youth coping with fetal alcohol effects, severe emotion disturbances, personality disorders, and behavioral and substance abuse issues. Be sure to follow Ezra on his ePortfolio at and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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