Ability of adults with mental retardation to exhibit linguistic “control” in informal settings within peer and staff dyads was evaluated. Results revealed that they produced significantly more utterances with staff than with peers in informal settings. However, they did not exhibit significant amounts of directives or questions, the two types of verbal control bids studied. Staff members used significantly more directives and questions as bids for control in non-peer settings than did the speakers with mental retardation in comparable peer interactions. Findings are consistent with observations of “learned helplessness” or prompt reliance within the population of persons with mental retardation. Results suggest that both staff members and adults with mental retardation have preconceived ideas on how to conduct themselves in daily interactions.

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