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Using Peer Mentors-Great Tips from a Recent Social Skills Workshop by Sharon Sacks

Date Posted: 06/28/2011

A recent workshop by Sharon Sacks, Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Staff Development at California School for the Blind, emphasized the importance of social skills for students with visual impairments. The following summarizes the need for including social skills training within student programs and offers some strategies on how to incorporate peers and role models to boost student success.

Teaching social skills to children with visual impairments/multiple disabilities is an essential part of the expanded core curriculum (ECC).

The expanded core curriculum identifies the unique needs of visually impaired learners that require additional focus of learning.

Sometimes called "disability‐specific skills," these are skills that should be addressed within the student’s educational program. These are skills that sighted peers acquire through incidental learning, while students with visual impairments require additional learning opportunities to cement these skills. Good social skills enhance self‐esteem, promote friendships, enable independent living skills and, eventually, lead to success in employment and/or postschool community experience programs. Here are Some Ways to Capitalize on the Role of Peers:

  • Peers can provide support with class material (peer assists rather than using a paraprofessional)
  • Peers can provide support to deal with appropriate social behavior (peer models interactions)
  • Peers can provide support at recess and lunch
Here are Some Ways to Utilize Peer‐Mediated Intervention
  • Peers can teach a specific social skill in typical play activities
  • Peers and the student with the vision impairment can mutually determine activities
  • Sighted peers can provide feedback and redirection of inappropriate behavior
  • Peers provide honest and realistic feedback
  • Teacher of the Visually Impaired provides support as necessary
Here are Some Ways to Incorporate Mentors and Role Models
  • Older students with visual impairments can serve as role models for younger students
  • Community visits to meet adults with visual impairments who have varied jobs impart a sense of success and future possibilities
  • Younger children can be given the opportunity to interview role models and mentors
  • Students read stories about adults who are blind or visually impaired to support an inclusive model
Here are Some Methods for Evaluating Social Skills of Children with Visual Impairments
  • Social Skills Checklist SSATVI (Santa Clara Social Skills Assessment for Children with Visual Impairments, McCallum and Sacks)
  • Role play scenarios – (Example: setting up different scenarios and practicing appropriate greetings and responses, practicing conversation skills, game‐playing etiquette, social niceties)
  • Audio and video recordings – (Example: film peer interactions and review with the student for skills reinforcement and refinement)
Have You Discovered the Power of Peers? Please Share Your Successes with Us!

Gail Feld, BESB Preschool TVI, (800) 842-4510 x4232
Gigi Whitford, BESB Special Services TVI, (800) 842-4510 x4185

Contact: Gigi Whitford and Gail Feld,TVIs, Connecticut Stat

Phone: (800) 842-4510 ext. 4232

Email: gigi.whitford@ct.gov or gail.feld@ct.gov

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