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ECC at Perkins: Shining through social interaction

Social interaction skills help students of all ages connect with other people.

Social interaction skills are taught to Perkins students from a young age. Photo Credit: Anna Miller.

Social interaction is one of nine life skills kids with visual impairments and multiple disabilities learn through the Expanded Core Curriculum at Perkins. Since sighted children learn nearly all social skills through observation of their environment and people, this is an area where students with vision loss and other disabilities need careful, conscious and explicit instruction. That includes things like circle time for really young children or opportunities to just hang out for teenagers.

Here’s a few of the ways social interaction is taught at Perkins, and a bit more about its place in the Expanded Core Curriculum.

Why is social interaction so important?

For kids with visual impairments, it’s not always easy to pick up on non-visual social cues like hand gestures or facial expressions. At the same time, kids in public school settings might not always be integrated into classrooms alongside their sighted peers, which keeps them from gaining the same kind of social experiences others get more naturally.

It’s important to help kids learn these social skills, both so they’re not at a disadvantage in social settings, and so they can build meaningful friendships and relationships on their own throughout their lives.

How is social interaction taught?

  • For the youngest: Interactive circle time is helpful. Songs, where students sing about shapes and concepts such as left or right, can also feature a social component. For example, during a song about sharing, a teacher might ask a student to pass around a ball. This reminds them that there are people on either side of them and helps reinforce sharing as a concept.
  • For kids a little older: While it may not appear educational at a glance, it’s extremely important to give teenagers with disabilities unstructured time to just hang out with their peers. This time affords them the opportunity to build bonds and find things they have in common. It’s even important to let them learn the hard way how to navigate an awkward silence, just as everyone else must.
  • Meeting new people: We do a lot of collaboration with area public schools, to ensure our students have the chance to meet kids outside the campus bubble. This not only serves as good practice for social skill building, but also helps them learn that they have more in common with their sighted peers than they may even realize, which helps them build even more confidence.

What is the Expanded Core Curriculum?

The Expanded Core Curriculum is built of of nine life skills Perkins students with visual impairments, deafblindness and additional disabilities learn on top of their core academics. It covers everything from using technology to independent living to socializing with peers — knowledge most sighted children acquire by observing everyday life. The Expanded Core Curriculum gives students who are blind, deafblind and have additional disabilities a toolbox of crucial skills they need to succeed at school, in social situations, at home, on the job and everywhere else.

Slater, who is deafblind, types an email to her Aunt Lori. Photo Credit: Anna Miller

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Student practices white cane technique as her orientation and mobility instructor observes.

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A teacher and student communicate via sign language

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