Peer interactions play an important role in social and emotional development for all students. Through a variety of activities and interactive settings, students build and learn cooperative, relationship, and problem-solving skills. Peer interactions also support the development of a student’s self-identity and self-determination.

For more information on social and emotional learning (SEL), including the Michigan SEL Competencies, visit the Michigan Department of Education’s Social-Emotional Learning page.

To help build their self-identity, students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) need opportunities to interact and learn from peers who are like them. Students need opportunities to communicate with those who use the same language or modality. They need to see and interact with others who use technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. Students need opportunities to talk through how they navigate the world around them, including how they use accommodations. Overall, students need access to others who “get it” and can relate to their everyday experiences.

Peer Interaction Research

Supporting peer connections for students who are DHH is also recognized as best practice. Optimizing Outcomes for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Educational Services Guidelines [PDF] was published in 2018 by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). This document outlines ten principles to guide the educational practices for students who are DHH. The eighth principle states that “access to peers and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing is critical” (NASDSE, p. 3). The document goes on to explain that “peer role models are beneficial to self-awareness, social communication, and overall social well-being.” Students of all ages who are DHH can benefit from the knowledge that they are not alone and that they have peers who can empathize with their experiences.

Opportunities Around the State

For some students, it may be difficult to find opportunities to make connections with peers who are DHH. Here are some options for students in Michigan:

  • Check with your student’s DHH teacher consultant to see if they know of events or other families in the area that are interested in making connections.
  • Connect with groups that support families of children who are DHH. These groups, such as MDE-LIO and Michigan Hands & Voices, often host virtual and in-person family and student events.
  • Seek out student opportunities hosted by DHH agencies such as The Holley Institute’s Carls Family Village and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.
  • Use social media to find local and virtual opportunities for students and families.
  • Attend a statewide conference for families with children who are DHH. The Family Matters Conference will be held in Lansing on March 11, 2023. Several organizations partner to host this event each year.
  • Research summer camp opportunities specifically for students who are DHH. MDE-LIO will host a LIVE with LIO: Let’s Get Ready for Summer! webinar at noon on March 21. If you cannot attend live, register to receive an email of the recording.
  • Register your student to attend a virtual student group hosted by MDE-LIO. These groups are designed for a mixture of building connections, sharing perspectives, and fun! Evening and school day options are available.

Connect with MDE-LIO

Contact MDE-LIO if you would like more information on how to find and foster peer-to-peer connections for students who are DHH.