Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, North South Wales, Australia.
Introduction: Occupational therapists are increasingly being referred children who experience reduced social competence. Ineffective use of cognitive strategies during social interactions is known to contribute to reduced social competence in children who have difficulty learning. Little is known about the nature of social cognitive strategy use or how it may be observed in children during performance of school occupations. This study aimed to explore the type of difficulties in cognitive strategy use that children experience during performance of social tasks as perceived by their parents.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was used to analyse 306 PRPP@HOME (Primary) Parent/Caregiver Questionnaire responses targeting parent perceptions of their child's cognitive strategy use during social interactions. The children were in the first four years of formal schooling and identified by their teachers as having difficulties with social skills. Factor analysis was used to discover conceptual groupings amongst cognitive strategy use items.
Results: Four factors emerged from the analysis. Factor One grouped PRPP cognitive strategy items related to organised thinking, attention and processing external sensory details during social performance. Factor Two grouped items related to higher level thinking for internal self-evaluation of behaviour. Factor Three grouped items related to focused and dual attention during social interactions. Factor Four grouped items related to performance and adjustment of behaviour to match the context of social interaction.
Conclusion: Parent perceptions indicate that children with reduced social competence experience inefficient use of cognitive strategies which organise attention, sensory perception and planning. This information can be used to specifically target programs which better support the thinking strategies which facilitate children's participation during social activities at school.
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