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THE EFFECTS OF ENGAGEMENT IN INSTRUCTIONAL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ON CHILDREN’S BEHAVIORAL FUNCTIONING

Purpose of Study

To determine whether engagement in instructional extracurricular activities that focus on each child’s strengths increases the child’s ability to display positive and prosocial behaviors, and decreases the need for the use of special treatment procedures.

Methods

Participants

Participants were the population of children and adolescents enrolled in the residential treatment program at Devereux Glenholme between June of 1999 and May of 2000. For many of the time periods sampled in the current study, the entire population was measured. During some time periods, a sample of the population was measured based on the children’s selection of activities. Comparisons will be made between the findings on the general population and these self-selected samples in order to address the selection threat to internal validity.

Variables

Time samples- Three conditions of time periods are included in this study. The first condition (Time A) is the two-hour period prior to participation in instructional extracurricular activities. During this time children were engaged in the regular Glenholme residential program. The second condition (Time B) is the period during participation in the extracurricular activities. This period ranged from one to six hours, with a mean of two and one-half hours and a standard deviation of one-hour and sixteen minutes. The third condition (Time C) is the two hour period following participation in the extracurricular activities, while children were again involved in the regular Glenholme residential program. A decision was made to view time A and C distinctly, rather than using a more traditional ABA research design, in order to assess for a "carry-over" effect of creative engagement in instructional extracurricular activities.

Type of activity- Two types of activities were included in the study. The first condition was interactive activities. These are activities in which direct participation by the children and adolescents occurs. The second condition was non-interactive activities. Non-interactive activities did not allow direct participation by the children and adolescents, but instead involved presentations of artistic material to them. In these situations, the children and adolescents were passive recipients or audience members of activities such as drama or musical performances.

Special treatment procedures- Staff members record whenever a child is placed in a quiet area or quiet room for either disruptive verbal or physical reasons, along with the time that the special treatment procedure was used. This data was tracked over the course of the study, with special treatment procedures being tallied for Times A, B, and C independently.

Results

It was hypothesized that creative engagement in instructional extracurricular activities would result in less frequent use of special treatment procedures. Three paired sample t-tests were used to compare the use of special treatment procedures during the three time sample conditions. The first comparison was between Time A, or the period prior to the instructional extracurricular activities, and Time B, or the period of involvement in the instructional extracurricular activities. As predicted, special treatment procedures were more likely to occur during Time A than Time B (t(37)=4.20, p<.001). The second comparison was between Time B and Time C, the period following involvement in instructional extracurricular activities. The results again, occurred as predicted, with special treatment procedures occurring less frequently during Time B than Time C (t(37)=-3.00, p=.005). Finally, a comparison was made between Time A and Time C in order to test for a "carry-over" of the benefits of engagement in instructional extracurricular activities. This test revealed that special treatments occurred more frequently during Time A than Time C (t(37)=3.379, p<.01), thus indicating that the positive effect of engagement in these creative activities tends to generalize to the time periods following the activity. It is important to note that the time of day that instructional extracurricular activities occurred varied across time samples, as did the day of the week, so differences between Time A and Time C can not be attributed to varying demands placed on the children at these times. The reader is referred to Graph 1 for a visual depiction of the frequency of utilization of special treatment procedures during each time period.

Graph 1

Next, comparisons were made between interactive and non-interactive activities to determine whether the type of activity had an effect on the use of special treatment procedures. Comparisons were made for all three time periods. There was no significant difference between interactive and non-interactive activities during the period before (Time A) the activities. This is not surprising, as the type of activity should have no effect on the period before the activity occurs. A significant difference was found between interactive and non-interactive activities during the periods of engagement in the activities (Time B), and the period following activities. Significantly fewer special treatment procedures were used during periods of engagement in interactive activities (t(36)=-2.18, p<.05), and the periods following engagement in interactive activities (t(36)=-2.01, p=.05) when compared with the same periods for engagement in non-interactive activities. The reader is referred to Graph 2 for a visual depiction of the differences between interactive and non-interactive instructional extracurricular activities.

Graph 2

In order to ensure that the findings above can not be attributed to a selection bias, t-tests were run on each of the three time conditions, comparing activities that included the general population of Glenholme to those conditions that involved a self-selected group of children. Significant differences were in fact found for Times A and C. Children who selected to participate in instructional extracurricular activities were less likely to utilize special treatment procedures prior to (t(36)=4.59, p<.001) or following (t(36)=3.03, p=.005) these activities. In fact, no students who selected to participate in these activities utilized special treatment procedures before, during, or after the activities. No significant difference was found between self-selected students and the general population on the use of special treatment procedures while involved in instructional extracurricular activities. While differences were found between the two conditions, the findings indicate that these instructional extracurricular activities have a greater impact on the general population, or students who participate in activities due to programmatic requirement rather than self-selection.

Discussion

Glenholme has recently added instructional extracurricular activities that creatively engage children in order to promote growth through capitalizing on each child’s strengths. These activities include, but are not limited to, the equestrian program, fine arts and drama instruction, and the community service program.

The current study indicates that when children are positively engaged in activities of high interest, they exhibit more consistent and on task behavior. Therefore, facilities such as Devereux Glenholme that work with children who display disruptive behaviors, can reduce the frequency of these behaviors and the need for negative or corrective behavior techniques by consistently involving children in these types of activities. By doing so, the adults in the treatment environment can find more opportunities to reinforce positive behaviors, which research has consistently shown to be the most effective means of modifying behavior.

One useful application of this study to Devereux Glenholme, aside from the feedback that the decision to fund these creative engagement activities appears to be warranted, is that it gives empirical evidence that interactive activities have a more positive impact on children. This information is being used for the planning of future activities for the children in our care.