I have noticed that parents begin recognizing that their deaf child is in difficulty socially when the child begins the third grade. We decided to opt for cochlear implant surgery for Jordan when he was in the second half of the third grade because we saw him struggling to communicate effectively with his peers, hearing aids were not providing adequate access to the hearing world. When a mother wrote to the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Circle requesting for advice on this topic, another mom, Naomi - the co-creator of the Circle responded:
My son is now 15 years old.
In the very early years of primary school he used to get party invitations but
they stopped around 3rd/4th grade. He also had kids to "hang out with" at school
but not friends that he would get invited to their places etc.
The year he was turning 12 we had a choice of 2 classroom teachers, one that
was academic focus, one social focus and of course we chose that teacher. It
seemed that our son had formed this kind of thing where by he didn't seem to
invest in the actual hardwork of making and building friendships. By that I mean
he would play handball with the other boys but if there was a
misunderstanding/communication breakdown he would walk away rather than put the
effort in with the other kids to try to resolve it. His teacher was great, he
put it right back on my son to put some hard yards in and not ask him to
intervene in any friendship issues until he had done that. This rocked boy
wonder I can tell you, this wasn't the way it was meant to be!! hahahahaa
It was the best thing ever but even though he worked on those skills that
year, I truly believe he had "burnt his bridges" with the kids at his school.
Lucky the school he was at finished at that year level and he moved schools. He
went to a new school with a clean slate AND the social skills to build and
maintain friendships. Now 3 years later he has the same friendship group and is
really happy with his social life etc.
Is there someone at school that can either video or observe the interactions
between your daughter and the other kids? If you can get an idea of where things
might be going wrong, role play is a brilliant tool. You can be her, she can be
her friends, then you can role model for her how she might go about dealing with
some of these situations. Things like entering and exiting a conversation even
are skills our kids often don't get, they need to be "taught" skills around how
to do this so they don't offend other kids or come across as rude.
Another thing you could do (if you have good support from your school) is do
some small group work with her and some kids who are great social role models.
The way to get your school to agree is to suggest they do it for all the kids
that might need help with social skills because I will bet my house on it that
your daughter isn't the only one. Use the kids with great skills, what a great
boost for them and positive reinforcement of the skills they use, and they get
to peer mentor to help others learn. Board games are great for social skills,
you can do turn taking, you can deal with problems if someone doesn't understand
IF your daughter has time out of the classroom I would also suggest you get a
teacher of the deaf to speak to the rest of the class. Make sure they understand
that sometimes she doesn't hear them when they are talking to her, she is not
being rude to them, she just didn't hear. Give them some strategies to help make
sure she hears them, make sure you get her attention (demo the best ways to do
that), make sure she is looking at them when they talk to her etc etc. Also help
them with some strategies to deal with communication breakdown, again use them
as great peers - if you let us know what kinds of things go wrong, then we can
all work together on them etc etc.
The playdate idea is also a good one.
On another note on the role playing thing another thing we did in the early
years was role model language dependent on the setting - another subtlety our
kids don't always get. We used to pretend we were a student, the teacher, the
headmaster/principal of the school etc etc. In this way we could start to expose
our son to the different way we use language depending on if it is family
members, playground friends, a person in authority - whatever.cheers
How ironic that one of my favorite bloggers Abbie touched on this same concern in her New Year's Eve blog. She wrote...
For a deaf chick that has a habit of running her mouth has grown up in what some people have called the “hearing world,” I never found a hearing person who could relate to me and my quirky ways of getting through the day. I have been called weird countless of times and I acknowledge that since I eat pizza with a fork, put potato chips on my hoagies, and I swallow gum. Ironically, I have almost NO experience with the “deaf world” and what little experience I did have I was shunned. When deaf people can talk, there seems to be a common theme that people like me are deaf to the “hearing world,” and hearing to the “deaf world.” Where do we fit in? We don’t. Personally, I feel that there is no such a thing as a “hearing world” and a “deaf world” because it implies that the world is divided by a common denominator, which is a contradiction unto itself.
As parents we can only try to help the ride move a little smoother, facilitate communication and just "be there" when they need us and when they don't even know they need us, so that our kids can grow up to understand who they are and what they need just like Abbie.