Recently, we sought out the opinion of a professional in the field of language and the brain. Maria DiCindio, M.A., CCC-SL is a speech language pathologist that works with children aged 3-11. She offered valuable feedback about our question:
How can we improve the peer interactions for children with pragmatic language disorder to increase self esteem, reduce difficulties in social settings, and prevent further issues relating to behavior and learning?
Our possible solutions:
Create and offer a network of social camps held throughout the year and country for all kids with pragmatic language disorder (possibly related disorders as well) to learn and improve upon skills that they may be lacking, and to boost their confidence in conversing with and developing relationships with people in a similar age group as them. Being in the same environment as people with similar struggles should increase self esteem, confidence, and could possibly lead to breakthroughs in therapies that work for this population.
Develop a technology that pairs a dopamine release with a child’s appropriate response in a social interaction. Using this technology as a form of conditioning, the child will eventually pair their appropriate social interactions with a feeling of happiness and the dopamine technology will be able to be removed.
Have a combination of typically developing peers and students with pragmatic language disorders in these camps. Inclusion provides typically developing individuals with a valuable experience and increases awareness and celebration of others’ differences, but also it serves to provide excellent social language models to children with pragmatic language deficits.
Suggestion–dopamine pairing technology:
Pair this approach with verbal feedback or token reinforcement.
Concern–dopamine pairing technology:
The release of dopamine following appropriate social behaviors would not be enough to condition a child whose difficulties may include emotional regulation and identification to continue said behaviors.
Our plan moving forward:
After receiving this feedback, we think that it is best to follow through with the social camp moonshot idea. The dopamine idea had a flaw in which it was unknown that a release of dopamine would not be enough to make an effect. The feedback we sourced from an expert in the field, as well as our peer feedback, has resulted in us to think that it would be too costly and too risky of an idea. We believe that the camp would more easily and quickly benefit children with pragmatic communication disorder, and will allow us to get creative with the curriculum of the camp! This idea will consist of a month long summer camp in which children will participate in activities that will create a sense of community, as well as help children increase their ability to be social with children around them. Through the feedback regarding who attends the camp, we are considering advertising the camp to all members of the community in a specified age range. We are excited to continue the development of our idea and to help the children who deserve a bright and happy childhood.