“It’s Wednesday and Heather’s here. Jack, who
will you invite?” The kindergarten teacher is seated with the class on the
rug and hands a card to my student as I walk into the room to get him and his
buddy. “Choose me, Jack!” “Pick me!” “Is
it my turn?” Children scramble to get closer, waving their hands to get
Jack’s attention, eagerly awaiting his response. He holds the name card in his
hand, looks at the picture and name, then grins and walks over to Eli. “Eli, come play!” Jack takes Eli’s hand
and they rush over to me, both beaming at each other. It’s time to work!
of our students with hearing loss become adult-oriented at a very young age.
Hours of individual therapy with adults and the structured, predictable
interactions with adults can lead to difficulties making and sustaining
friendships with peers. Reading social
cues and keeping up with the fast moving, unpredictable conversations among
peers can be much more challenging and result in frustration and withdrawal. Purposefully
creating more structured interactions with classmates promotes friendships in
the more causal settings in and outside of school. Some students participate in
lunch bunches, groups that meet during lunchtime in a quieter setting to foster
relationships. Bringing a peer to an individual session is another great way to
start bridging this gap, as long as these sessions are thoughtfully planned. Allowing
students to invite classmates, especially in upper elementary and middle school,
can eliminate the stigma that is sometimes associated with leaving the room to
work individually with an outside service provider. Typically hearing peers can
serve as language models for our students with hearing loss and for us as the
TOD/HOH as well! I find it helpful to listen to the causal conversations of
peers in order to make sure my expectations for my own students remain high and
age appropriate. Inclusion of peers is also a way to assess the skills our
students with hearing loss have and the areas in which they need more practice
and support. Some things to keep in mind:
· You will need permission in order to take a peer
out of class to join an individual session. I’ve never had a problem, but
always check with my contact at the school as well as the classroom teacher.
I’m also very clear on the purpose of bringing a peer. I explain what we will
do and the benefits to both students. Collaborating with the SLP is another
great strategy. Many SLPs that I work with set up situations where we can meet
and have our sessions together with our students for activities that we have
· Teachers should have ample notice when you plan
to take a peer so that they can plan for that student’s absence.
· For younger students, a system that is clear to
the whole class is also important since jealousy can be an issue if the same
students always get chosen. Some classrooms have a sign-up list where students
can request to join one of my “Buddy
Sessions.” Other teachers prefer to choose the peer themselves. Be clear about
your expectations for the session when meeting with the teacher so that she can
share her thoughts on choosing an appropriate buddy.
· When possible, especially for younger students,
have a set plan for when the student will bring a buddy. It is important that
the student with hearing loss does not miss critical time from individual
sessions. They should know when a friend can come and when it’s time for
individual work. This will vary for each student. For example, I see my
kindergarten student three times each week and he brings a buddy every other
week for the first half of our time together.
do we do together? We work on social skills, listening, and self-advocacy! My
students practice these skills with me but it is more meaningful to practice
with a friend. Pre-teaching games that require language and listening before
playing them with a friend allows the student with hearing loss extra time to
practice and become familiar with the activity. Games such as *Moods (reading tone of voice and facial
expressions), Imagine If (taking on
the perspective of others), and Storymatic
(listening to each other to create a story using prompts) are great for older
students or students with higher language levels. For younger students or
students with lower language levels, card games using a regular deck of cards
or games such as Go Fish still
require them to listen to each other and use language to interact.
the peer joins us, this quieter setting is an ideal time for the student with
hearing loss to explain to the peer how and why to use the FM while playing,
and to practice self-advocacy by asking for repetition or clarification as
needed. Expressive language skills are practiced when the student has to
explain the game to his peer using temporal and sequential language.
a friend to an individual session can be a rewarding experience for everyone
involved. My students with hearing loss gain social confidence, and their
classmates learn to see my students in a positive light.
to you help foster friendships?
always edit the decks of cards for any board game. Know your student and his
skill level. Pre-teach vocabulary as necessary and be sure your student feels
confident in playing before bringing a friend.