Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education


Special Education

First Committee Member

Thomas Pierce, Chair

Second Committee Member

Kyle Higgins

Third Committee Member

Susan Miller

Graduate Faculty Representative

Richard Tandy

Number of Pages



Research indicates that teachers and parents of children with disabilities rated self-determination, and in particular problem-solving skills, as important for success (Agran & Alper, 2000; Kolb & Hanley-Maxwell, 2003; Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 2000). Yet students with intellectual disabilities lack specific instruction related to self-determination, and often they have limited opportunities to practice the problem-solving skills that are needed (Agran & Wehmeyer, 2005; Grigal, Neubert, Moon, & Graham, 2003). This results in adolescents with intellectual disabilities exiting the school environment without the problem-solving skills needed to solve real-world problems.

Problem-solving instruction increases the acquisition of self-determination skills of students with intellectual disabilities and teaches these students how to self-regulate their behaviors (Agran, Blanchard, Wehmeyer, & Hughes, 2002; Palmer & Wehmeyer, 2002; Palmer, Wehmeyer, Gipson, & Agran, 2004). These behaviors are important for successful inclusion and access to the general education curriculum (Agran, Cavin, Wehmeyer, & Palmer, 2006). It is imperative that direct instruction of problem-solving skills begins when students are in the elementary grades so they have increased opportunities to practice the skills over time (Palmer & Wehmeyer, 2003).

Researchers have noted that elementary-age students with intellectual disabilities have demonstrated problem-solving skills during instruction (Palmer & Wehmeyer, 2003), nevertheless, researchers have suggested more study is needed to assess the generalization and maintenance of problem-solving skills (Agran et al., 2001; Palmer et al., 2004). The purpose of this study was to research middle school students' with intellectual disabilities application, maintenance, and generalization of problem-solving skills. This study contributes to the limited research for this population of students, and provides a systematic approach to teach problem-solving skills that lead to self-determination (Agran et al., 2002; Crites & Dunn, 2002; Palmer & Wehmeyer, 2002).

This study was designed to investigate the effects of problem-solving instruction to increase the skill performances of problem solving in middle school students with intellectual disabilities. Since the participants were students with intellectual disabilities who were instructed in a special education classroom, this research can be used to improve student outcomes. In addition, this study provides insight into how this problem- solving strategy can be implemented by teachers.


Autonomy (Psychology); Middle school education; People with mental disabilities; Problem solving in children; Special education;


Education | Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




Signatures have been redacted for privacy and security measures.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit