The latter notion has, in fact, been suggested as an alternative explanation for children with disabilities’ social difficulties. It has been suggested that it is the stigmatization of having a learning disability and receiving special services, more so than social difficulties, that results in lower peer status (Bryan and Bryan, 1986). If stigmatization were contributing to poor acceptance and rejection, then the social behavioral problems of these children would not be very predictive of their peer status. Instead, low social acceptance and rejection would be artifacts of being labeled with a learning disability.
Research into the social difficulties of children with disabilities, however, suggests that these children’s social problems and low acceptance/rejection are not a result of their disability label but are features of the disability itself. In a study examining the sociometric status of students in kindergarten, those who were later identified with disabilities were more likely to have had low peer acceptance ratings and a rejected status in kindergarten (Vaughn, Hogan, Kouzekanani, and Shapiro, 1990). Given that poor sociometric ratings were present before the children were even “labeled” as having a disability, social difficulty does not appear to be the result of stigmatization but, rather, an associated feature of the disability.
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