Stories and Strategies
Diane: The focus of this webinar is the identification of social-emotional needs, instruction/intervention ideas and shared lived experiences. During this webinar series, students who are deaf or hard of hearing will be are referred to as “students” with the understanding that the focus of this webinar is on them. Unless indicated that students are hearing, the audience should assume presenters are focusing on those who are deaf or hard of hearing. In Minnesota approximately 88% of students are educated in their home districts, therefore, this webinar series will focus on those experiences for which there may be compromised access that affects development language, academic and social language skills.
When considering the teaching of social and emotional skills to students, one of the primary challenges that leads to confusion is that there is no common language about the different categories being discussed. For example, some people talk about the social interaction norms and friendship skills that kids need to develop, including how to make friends, disagree about something politely, or how to play games. Others talk about the emotional health of students, such as how they feel about their varying hearing levels or how they deal with their feelings of being solitaires in the classroom. Finally, some people are concerned about social communication and isolation. Solitaire is a term that was introduced by Gina Oliva in her book, “Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School” for children or teens who are the only student who is deaf or hard of hearing in a class or school.
Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing are often the professionals who first raise questions about how students are able to access communication and form relationships with their peers within the school and community settings. As an example, these teachers ask about the emotional health of students, especially when students are solitaires. Researchers have found that some students who are deaf or hard of hearing may have higher rates of externalizing behaviors, such as aggression and not following social rules compared to children who can hear. They may also demonstrate higher rates internalizing behaviors such as anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. This is because students may lack the language to internalize social norms and miss out on opportunities for incidental learning because they do not have full access. However, this is a topic for future discussion and exploration and not the focus of this webinar.
We also need to define some terms. Social and emotional skills are the behavioral skills that include positive social interactions, good social communication, and social behavior. Social interaction and friendship skills are the skills needed to have quality, stable long- term relationships with peers, which includes hearing, hard of hearing and deaf peers. Factors that impact students can be divided into individual, family and school experiences. Within those factors, it’s important to consider the age and gender of the child, the functional hearing levels and communication skills with hearing peers as well as family members, including whether parents accept their child’s hearing loss and provide school support.
Another purpose of the webinars is to illustrate some of the challenges that students have as they journey through school years. Shared language and experiences can help teams develop goals for students, including finding ways to connect with other people who have lived through similar experiences. Some of those stories will be shared by adults or older teens. Sharing of lived experiences provides validation and support to solitaires and opens the door to shared experiences to start conversations with students.
Finally, teachers need to provide intervention and directly teach positive social interaction and friendship skills, monitor emotional health, and facilitate social communication. This includes understanding social cues, facial expressions and body language connected to emotions as well as jargon, slang, and idioms that are used by their hearing peers. Interventions provided by teachers fall into three categories: home-based interventions, classroom-based interventions, and individualized interventions. Interventions also vary at different stages of development. Examples will be given and illustrated with stories of lived experiences.
Additional materials and ideas can be found on the Resources list linked to this webinar. We hope teachers discover ideas to support social-emotional development and skills that are unique to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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