In Social Behavior and Skills in Children, premier scientist and LSU Professor and Distinguished Research Master, Dr. Johnny Matson, brings together a slate of experts to explain the science and practice of helping youngsters with problems to strengthen their social behavior. Matson and his contributors unfold a wealth of information in theory, research, and practical advice to support both the clinician and researcher to update and focus thinking in this complex and essential topic.
Matson has a gift for coordinating interesting, authoritative sources. In Social Behavior he draws from experts at Louisiana State University, from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in California, from the Universities of Kansas, Southern Illinois, Southern Mississippi, Southeastern Louisiana, Virginia, Texas at Austin, Central Florida, and Universities in New Zealand and Italy.
Among this group are Louisiana State University’s Jessica Boisjolie, Dr. Thompson Davis, III, Timothy Dempsey, Jill Fodstad, Melissa Munson, Tess Rivet, and Erin Tarcza from LSU, and Dr. Monique LeBlanc from Southeastern.
Also contributing are Dr. Rebecca Mandal-Blasio and Dr. Karen Sheridan from the Louisiana Office of Citizens
with Developmental Disabilities, Resource Center on Psychiatric and Behavior Supports, in Hammond, Louisiana.
Dr. George Schreiner from Northlake Supports and Services Center in Hammond, and lecturer at Southeastern,
is also a coauthor.
Dr. Matson is an expert in mental retardation, autism, and severe emotional disorders in children and
adolescents, with over 600 publications including 37 books. In Social Behavior he provides the underlying
connections between theory and research, general practice, and then applies this foundation in eight specific
Children who suffer with learning disabilities, ADHD, conduct disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic physical
illness such as diabetes or and other disabilities, may need specific help to function socially in school, with
friends, with family, and to move smoothly in social adjustment toward adulthood. Social Behavior addresses how
these deficits in social skills can impact quality of life and future development of a youngster.
The 13 chapters provide an in-depth study of the topic of social behavior and social skills, not always covered
adequately in texts about mental or physical disorders.
Previously Dr. Matson said to the Times, “Writing is rewarding in the sense that it assists in allowing for the
review of empirically supported evidence and the concise delivery of this information to professionals in the field.”
Social Behavior will help ensure that practitioners have the newest information supported by scientific findings.
Dr. Thompson Davis, agrees. Coauthor of the chapter on anxiety and phobias, he is Director of the Psychological Services for Youth Clinic and of the Laboratory for Anxiety, Phobia, and Internalizing Disorder Studies at LSU. He told the Times, “I always enjoy the opportunity that chapter writing provides of getting an updated in-depth review of a topic. I learn a lot by having to then turn around, digest the information, and do my best to present it in a concise and usable form for others.”
One of the satisfying aspects of Social Behavior is the logical structure and consistency that flows from chapter to chapter, despite the variety of topics and different authors’ perspectives. The structure facilitates the readers’ thinking about the subject, defining the concepts, applying the available evidence, analyzing gaps and directions, and linking practice recommendations to both assessment and treatments.
Whether a practitioner or researcher, the reader will easily be able to update knowledge in this rapidly evolving area, and have on hand a comprehensive and relevant review of the literature.
Yet there is ample practical advice and information. Social Behavior provides 48 norm-referenced measures of social skills and an array of evidence- based interventions with critiques.
Dr. Matson has authored more than 37 books and his way of handling complex theoretical and technical matters is to produce cleanly written and logically organized volumes. Social Behavior meets this goal by capturing a record amount of information in a concise 13 Chapters without unnecessary tangents or bloated narrative.
In “History and Overview,” Chapter 1, authors define applicable concepts and review the progression and evolution of the science over time. Authors provide the scope of the field, an overview of assessment and treatment, and the current state of research. Dr. Monique LeBlanc, Assistant Professor at Southeastern Louisiana University helped coauthor the chapter.
In Chapter 2, “Theories of Social Competence from the Top-Down to the Bottom-Up: A Case for Considering Foundational Human Needs,” authors untangle the theoretical issues further in an intriguing review, including sections on “meta-theoretical lens” and “resource control theory,” an evolutionary based theory of social competence.
“Etiology and Relationships to Developmental Disabilities and Psychopathology” comes next. The
authors, including Dr. Sara Jordan of U. of Southern Mississippi, point out how social skills problems are related to a variety of developmental and psychological disorders experienced by youngsters.
LSU’s Jessica Boisjoli and Johnny Matson author Chapter 4, “General Methods of Assessment.” They provide a comprehensive review of current methods for assessing social skills, along with supporting evidence, current trends, and future directions.
“General Methods of Treatment,” Chapter 5, is authored by LSU’s Timothy Dempsey and Johnny Matson. They provide an overview of the guiding theory for social skills interventions, including the methodological issues in current research. Results of meta-analysis of outcome studies is included and also an explanation of “social validity,” a way of understanding the value of interventions.
Chapter 6 is “Challenging Behaviors.” This chapter is coauthored by Dr. Rebecca Mandal-Blasio and Dr. Karen Sheridan, both from the Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Dr. George Schreniner is also a coauthor. Authors examine how challenging behaviors such as aggression, property destruction, or self-injury, for example, are related to social skills deficits, including acquisition deficits, performance deficits, fluency deficits, and interfering behaviors. They review functional assessment and interventions.
In Chapter 7, “Social Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder,” authors define concepts and provide an overview of interview and observation scales that are useful in measuring social skills in this population. They include the Children’s Social Behavior Questionnaire, the PDD Behavior Inventory, The Social Responsiveness Scale, and Matson Evaluation of Social Skills with Youngsters. Coauthors also review an array of skills addressed by interventions, including social initiation, conversational behavior, sociodramatic play, reciprocal interactions, perspective taking, and others.
For Chapter 8, authors review the current scientific status of “Intellectual Disability and Adaptive-Social Skills.” They provide 11 specific examples of interventions with associated evaluations, including “A program to promote adaptive (leisure) engagement and improve mood in children with severe/profound intellectual and other disabilities” and also “A program to reduce sleep problems in children with mild-to- severe intellectual disability.”
In Chapter 9, “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” authors provide an overview with current definitions, assessment methods, and interventions for social behaviors deficits in youngsters with ADHD. They include a section on “Novel Directions for Treatment,” and explain “friendship interventions,” interventions for peer rejection that focus on the peers, and new strategies for cooperative learning in classrooms.
Chapter 10 is “Evidence-Based Methods of Dealing with Social Deficits in Conduct Disorder.” Authors outline diagnostic criteria, etiology, assessment issues, and treatment including a section on prevention.
LSU’s Dr. Thompson E. Davis, III, collaborates with coauthors Melissa Munson, and Erin Tarcza, for Chapter 11, “Anxiety Disorders and Phobias.” The authors note that numerous anxiety disorders and phobias in children can interfere with social, school and family relationships, including discrimination and even victimization. They explain that little attention has been paid to social behavior in anxiety-disordered children outside of social phobia, and provide information on etiology, prevalence, and social skill problems that are unique to this population. They provide an appealing definition of anxiety, current theory, research, assessment, and treatments, calling for a multi-level approach.
Dr. Davis told the Times, “I hope this chapter helps in establishing the social context surrounding anxiety disorders, and that it emphasizes the reciprocal social influences children and adults have on each other–for the alleviation or, unfortunately, exacerbation of anxiety problems.”
In Chapter 12, “Major Depression,” LSU’s Jill Fodstad and Johnny Matson, point out that at one time experts thought children did not experience depression and write “serious psychological disturbance that affects a large number of children,” must not be taken lightly. The complex nature of depression, they note, requires the clinician to take into account etiological variables, and “skill set, competence, developmental level, and needs of the client…” It is not a one-size fits all problem, the authors say, and recommend a broad- based, multi-method assessment approach. They review biological, environmental and psychosocial factors, and present an extensive review of available assessment methods.
Social Behavior and Skills in Children concludes with Chapter 13, “Medical and Physical Impairments and Chronic Illness,” by Tessa Rivet and Johnny Matson of LSU. They define chronic physical childhood conditions and review theoretical models for psychosocial adjustment. They outline the impact of these illnesses and physical disabilities on social skills, psychosocial development, risk, resilience and provide extensive information for assessment, including a compilation of studies of social functioning of children with asthma, cancer, cardiac conditions, cerebral palsy, craniofacial conditions, epilepsy, hearing loss, HIV, and others.
This excellent work is available at Springer (http://www.springer.com) and at online booksellers everywhere.