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The use of visual supports to increase task independence in students with severe disabilities in the inclusive educational setting
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The present study sought to determine if systematically teaching the use of visual supports to students identified as having severe disabilities resulted in improved task completion and independence in general education classrooms and inclusive school environments. Four students attending an inclusive elementary school in a public school district in a western state participated in this research study. The four participants, in grades two through five, participated in activities in general education classrooms and school environments with same-aged peers a minimum of 10% of each school day. Symbol assessments (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2005) were conducted to determine the type of symbols understood by each participant, with the results used to inform the design of individualized visual supports. For each participant, a visual support system delineated a multi-step task, which prior to the implementation of the intervention, required extensive prompting. The visual support was designed to increase independent task completion for each student's selected activity. A non-concurrent multiple baseline design across participants was used to demonstrate experimental control within this study. The independent variable was the use of the visual support, with and without systematic teaching, during a specific task within the school environment. The dependent variable was the participant's degree of independent task completion. Results, analyzed through visual analysis and percentage of all non-overlapping data (PAND), showed intervention of visual supports paired with systematic teaching of the supports was highly effective for three of four participants, with the fourth participant not completing intervention due to the end of the school year. Participants' increased independent completion of targeted activities demonstrated the effectiveness of a visual support paired with systematically teaching how to use the support. Social validity data gathered a few months after the completion of the study revealed that teachers and support staff viewed the visual support intervention as an effective strategy in aiding the participants' independent completion of their specific tasks.