Universiteit Leiden

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Enhancing social participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing children

Adva Eichengreen starts a fellowship focusing on enhancing social participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. Eichengreen has been offered a postdoc position at Leiden University as part of the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie “LEaDing Fellows” Project within the collaboration of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) community.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children

Eichengreen's project at Leiden University focuses on enhancing social interactions of deaf and hard-of-hearing children with their hearing peers, which is especially relevant as now more and more children with disabilities go to mainstream schools. As a deaf researcher in a dominant hearing community herself, Eichengreen is interested in emotional, social and environmental aspects which can improve the well-being of children with disabilities, and deaf and hard-of-hearing children in particular. This project collaborates with the research project of Carolien Rieffe on autism in students. While Eichengreen focuses on elementary-school aged DHH children, Rieffe's research is about adolescents with autism.

Social and acoustic barriers

Eichengreen’s project focuses on social and acoustic barriers to social interactions of DHH children with their hearing peers. It is very difficult for DHH children to participate in verbal exchanges that involve more than two people, and occur during movement and play or when there is a background noise, such as the noise generated by children during breaks time. Together with Alexander Koutamanis (Delft University) this project will uniquely assess the acoustic characteristics of the school area, not only classrooms but also of social areas such as the playground or the corridors, to identify factors that impact the quality of DHH children’s social interactions. We will also look for the perspectives of DHH children themselves about accessibility in the social context. For example, how do they think that acoustics affect their participation in group activities? How do they think that usage of a special microphone impacts their social relationships?

Sense of belonging in a society

In addition to communicational barriers, DHH children may face unacceptance by hearing peers. Besides blunt stigma, it is not easy for children who are different for various reasons, to achieve a sense of belonging in a society that is not aware, adapted or accepting of people who are considered as ‘different’. This project will focus on cognitive and emotional attributes of the hearing classmates which can predict the degree of their openness and willingness to be friends with DHH children. The findings will potentially serve future interventions for improvement of social acceptance by classmates.

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