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Patterns of social interaction of hard of hearing elementary school children : perspectives of Hearing Resource Teachers Norman, Nancy Alice

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate peer interactions and social relationships between elementary school aged hard of hearing children and their hearing peers, who are educated together in regular educational settings. The three Hearing Resource Teachers in the North Vancouver School District (the entire collaborative Hearing Resource group) were interviewed using a semi-structured question format and were asked to comment on the peer interactions and social experiences of 10 elementary school aged, hard of hearing students they support (6 girls/4 boys). Interviews were conducted one-on-one and took approximately 1 hour each to complete. Taped interviews were transcribed and then analyzed using a constant-comparative method and thematic analysis, and then identified pattern and themes were discussed. The findings of this study included the following: 1) Communication Difficulties: communication breakdown was reported for all students, especially in noisy environments (gym, large groups, in background noise); repair strategies appear to be developmentally linked, where younger children used less overt ways of filling in the gaps (lip reading, watching for visual cues) and older children were more proactive (good self-advocates, asking for help when needed); successful communication was noted most often occurring in quiet environments where background noise is controlled (one-on-one settings, small groups); 2) Friendship Patterns: difficulties making and maintaining friends were cited, however; 9/10 children were reported as having some successful social interactions and meaningful friendships; 3) Developmental Trends and Gender Differences: children were reported as seeing peers as important for social interaction and friendships endured year after year. Boys were more involved in group or team interactions, whereas girls preferred small, intimate social interactions; 4) Personality Connection: children with positive characteristics were reported as having accepted their hearing loss, using amplification equipment and having fewer difficulties in their social relationships than children who reported as having negative characteristics; 5) Family Involvement: successful peer interaction was positively associated with the degree of family involvement; 6) Social Interaction with other Hard of Hearing Individuals: regular contact with other individuals with hearing losses appears to have a positive effect on social-emotional development. Unexpected findings include the role of the Hearing Resource Teacher and Friendship Patterns. Recommendations are made for Hearing Resource-Teacher support, professional preparation of teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing and the use of family-centered interventions to support the social development of elementary school aged hard of hearing children. Implications for future research are discussed.

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