Children with intellectual disabilities are in many ways similar to other children (e.g., weight, height, muscle coordination) but have lower lung capacity and resistance, as well as weaker eyesight, hearing, and motor control (Smith et al., 2005). Their intellectual development is slower resulting in significant disabilities or arrested intellectual capabilities (Smith et al., 2005). In addition, it is difficult for these children to focus on a task and they are easily distracted because of lower visual and perceptive capabilities (Kim and Park, 2007). This lack of attention is accompanied by symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Parker, 1992). The children’s cognitive development capabilities are markedly low with weak abilities in terms of social skills (e.g., self-assertion, self-control, cooperation) and they tend to avoid social relationships (Smith et al., 2005). The categories of intellectual disability are based on intelligence quotients (IQs). Those with an IQ ≤34 are classified as grade 1 and require the life-long protection of a caregiver because of their considerable difficulty with everyday life and adaptation in social settings. Those with IQs from 35 to 49, grade 2 disabilities, are able to be trained to succeed at simple everyday activities and can hold uncomplicated jobs that do not require a special technology. Those with IQs from 50 to 70 are classified as grade 3 and can undergo social and occupational rehabilitation via training (Kim, 2009b).
According to the Skinner’s behavior modification theory which is composed of stimulus (environment) → response (action) → reinforcement (result), children are led to reinforce desirable actions through providing compensations for appropriate actions that they took by chance in response to external stimulus (Skinner, 1957). Skinner’s theory is widely used by special education teachers for children with disabilities to improve voluntary will (Dollard and Miller, 1950; Sundberg and Michael, 2001). In addition, the children talk less in class and display a decrease in distractive behaviors (Kim, 1993). Several studies have also shown improvement in implementing learned tasks (Kim, 1997; Yoo, 2002).
The efficacy of HT became apparent when horticultural activities were tested on people with mental disabilities and children with intellectual disabilities. A positive impact of HT on children with intellectual disabilities was established with improvements in attention and motivation (Kang, 1998), sociality and social relationships, self-concept and linguistic communication skills (Cho, 2001; Kim, 2001; Lee, 2004). In addition, their self-confidence and self-efficacy was strengthened (Lee, 2008). Horticultural activities also reduce inappropriate behavior and stress in children with intellectual disabilities (Doxon et al., 1987; Kang, 1998; Sim, 2007) and enhanced their self-concept (Han, 2007). Moreover, outdoor activities like soccer or fishing in green settings or playing in green environments, including grass, trees, or wild places improved attention deficit disorder that reduces children’s attention capacity and positively affects to their school life, interpersonal relationships, or personal growth (Sundberg and Michael, 2001; Taylor et al., 2001).
The objective of this study was to test the effect of a HT program that was developed using Skinner’s behavior modification theory and the special education science curriculum for Korean children with intellectual disabilities for the improvement of attention and sociality.
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