Classroom Interpreters - Interpreters and Children - Cognitive/Social Development and Educational Interpreting
Late Elementary Years – 9 – 11 years old
The later elementary years are important in terms of social cognition. Children begin to mature cognitively and can manage more complex dialogue, problem-solving, and thinking. There are several aspects of development during these years that may be relevant to an interpreted education.
Development of Peer Culture
Children talk to each other differently than they talk with adults. They use specialized vocabulary, phrases and slang. They talk about certain topics and they share background information on television and movies. They begin to dress alike.
These special customs bind children together as they form peer groups, hanging out together because of their shared interests. By participating in peer groups, children learn how to cooperate and lead and how to work towards collective goals.
Peer acceptance is an important part of development during these ages. Peer acceptance is basically how likable a child is to his/her peers. Do the child’s peers see him/her as a worthy social partner? Peer acceptance is a powerful predictor of later adjustment.
Of course, the development of peer groups can have negative consequences. Children who do not know the peer culture rules may be excluded or bullied. Children can be brutal. Peer groups can reject those peers who do not conform to the rules of the group.
The Development of Friendships
Young children have friends. But during this age, children begin to select friends based on personality characteristics, not just because they like to play with the same toy. Younger children often say they have many friends, but by late elementary children often report having just a few friends, or even a single best friend.
Friendships at this age reflect mutual appreciation for personality traits and trust. Children at this age report that good friendship is based on being able to count on someone. Friendships become longer, with most lasting for several years.
Friendships are important to child development. Through them, children learn the importance of emotional commitment. They come to realize that close relationships can survive disagreements. They learn how to resolve conflict with people they like in respectful ways that are intended to continue the relationship.
Children also learn better when they work cooperatively with friends. Friends have richer collaborations, and often their products are higher quality than those produced by children working together who are not friends. Friendships are important to our development of social cognition skills.
Interpreted Education and Cognitive/Social Skills
Clearly, the development of friendships and peer bonding are an essential part of the late elementary years. These interactions are one of the biggest challenges in an interpreted education. How does an interpreter foster authentic peer interaction when the very act of being there is foreign to peer culture? Children enjoy interacting without adults present.
The educational interpreter needs sensitivity to developmental levels at this age. It is important that when she/he is interpreting for peer interactions, she/he communicates a sense that this is their group and she is not a censor. If the interpreter conveys that she is simply facilitating communication and is not a spy for the teacher, children may feel more comfortable being a kid in front of an adult. It would help if all children knew when they could just be kids as opposed to being in a formal class activity where there are different expectations for language and behavior.
The interpreter may need some specialized vocabulary for words that children commonly use at this age. Slang is an important aspect of peer bonding and peer groups. The deaf student should have access to “peer talk” as well as formal academic discourse.
The Deaf or Hard of Hearing Student Without Friendships
If a deaf or hard of hearing student is not able to establish some authentic friendships during this age, alternative routes to social interaction should be explored. It is important for the child to have some friends in his/her life, even if they do not go to the same school.
Many communities have established deaf or hard of hearing child sports teams and scouting organizations. The deaf community is an excellent resource to help lead these groups. Working with parent organizations and deaf adults often gives deaf or hard of hearing children opportunities to interact with each other.
There also are national summer camps and organizations that provide opportunities for deaf or hard of hearing children who may have limited social interaction during the school year. It is very important for children to have some avenue to develop friendships and peer culture during these years.