Coping With Communication Breakdown A Program of Strategy Development for Children Who Have Hearing Losses Clinical Focus: Innovation
Clinical Focus: Innovation  |   July 01, 1992
Coping With Communication Breakdown
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jill L. Elfenbein
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Clinical Focus / Innovation
Clinical Focus: Innovation   |   July 01, 1992
Coping With Communication Breakdown
American Journal of Audiology, July 1992, Vol. 1, 25-29. doi:10.1044/1059-0889.0103.25
American Journal of Audiology, July 1992, Vol. 1, 25-29. doi:10.1044/1059-0889.0103.25

Eight years of experience with the Communication Strategies Program have provided evidence that participation in a program of this type can lead to marked improvement in children's abilities to cope with communication breakdown. However, it is clear that children can not be expected to master every aspect of the program in 6 weeks. Most move through the program, learning the basic components during one summer, and then return in subsequent summers to expand their understanding of these concepts and/or to refine their application of the techniques they have been taught. Many children need work on specific vocabulary or syntax skills before they can tackle some of the issues related to causes of communication breakdown (e.g., unclear pronoun referents) or feelings encountered when communication breakdown occurs (e.g., frustration, confusion).

This description of the program has focused on communication between a child who signs and children and adults who do not. However, the children were taught to use the same approach with individuals who do sign or can understand their speech. Marked improvement was seen in interactions among the children, between the children and the clinicians, and between the children and the dorm staff. Parent reports also indicate that benefits cut across many types of interactions. One mother told a local reporter that, "Jaclyn learned that there was a way to make herself understood— whether by sign, gestures, drawing, mimicking or pointing—and not to let anyone tell her anything different... . After the first summer in the University program, Jaclyn was much more sure of herself. She was willing to tackle anything" (Brown, 1989, p. 3).

This program can be readily adapted to a variety of clinical and educational settings. The basic format can be varied to meet the needs of children of different ages, or with different degrees of hearing loss, cognitive abilities, or speech and language skills. The program can also be adjusted to fit within the time frame of school or clinic calendars.

Within the SRP setting, the program has served as the foundation for discussing behavior in emergency situations, use of TDDs, and foreign languages. Formal descriptions of these aspects of the project are under development. It is likely that clinicians who experiment with the program will find additional ways to broaden the program's scope.

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