The Role of Social Validity in the Design, Delivery and Evaluation of Person-Centered Treatments

The construct of social validity was introduced by Wolf (1978) and was defined by three distinct components. These components included (a) the social significance of the goals of treatment, (b) the social appropriateness of the treatment procedures and (c) the social importance of the effects of treatment. Wolf (1978) asserted that all three of these components must be present to be considered total construct social validity, as anything less would be termed partial construct. The value of social validity in the design, delivery and evaluation of treatments has been supported over time within the literature. Most notably, Schwartz and Baer (1991) spoke to the importance of social validity in terms of designing treatments that were both relevant and valued by consumers. The field of special education has witnessed a significant growth over the past thirty-years in the use of a person-first framework. The merits of social validity for promoting person-first treatments are substantial and include the potential for greater consumer and family engagement, increased adherence to treatment and greater degrees of treatment satisfaction by all parties including teachers, therapists, family members and consumers. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that social validity inputs promote the design and delivery of socially significant treatments and potential quality of life outcomes for consumers in a manner, which honors the intentions of person-centered professional practice. The purpose of this presentation will be to provide attendees with: (a) A clear understanding of the construct of social validity, (b) A brief review of the literature pertaining to the frequency of social validity in single-case research including total and partial construct, (c) The rationale and importance of social validity in the design, delivery and evaluation of person-centered treatments, (d) Applications of social validity including formal and informal social validity measures, (e) And, finally the ethical basis for utilizing social validity in the formal development, of person-centered treatments and their implications for realizing socially significant outcomes for consumers.

Prof. John J. Wheeler

Professor Department of Educational Foundations and Special Education East Tennessee State University Research interests include the areas of autism, developmental disabilities and positive behavioral interventions and supports.