The primary goal for this session is to enable the group to express their life experiences with hearing loss and to recognize the sources of their communication challenges.
- Icebreaker introductions
- Introduce the ground rules
- Identify how group members are affected by their hearing loss
- Get feedback from the group
It’s important for group participants to feel comfortable. One of the most important steps for the first session is getting to know each other.
One way to help people become comfortable with each other is to use an icebreaker exercise. You can begin by having everyone (including you) briefly answer the following questions:
- What is your name?
- Name three places where you have lived.
- What hobbies do you have?
- If you weren't here right now, where would you be?
- If you weren't here right now, where do you wish you could be?
Icebreakers help everyone get to know each other and find things in common.
Set some ground rules to make sure everyone gets the most out of Group AR. Start with this list and ask the group if they have any they would like to add.
Group activity: Identify how group members are affected by their hearing loss
This activity helps the group warm-up and bond with each other and will provide focus points for future sessions. To get the conversation started, you can initiate the session by showing the video “A sense of irritation.”
Decide before the session whether the group should focus on discussing specific communication challenges or look more broadly at emotional challenges. Encourage participants to write down five to ten ways hearing loss affects them and their communication partners (if you have a larger group, you may want to limit this to three challenges per person).
Remember that it is important for everyone to share their experiences. This lets everyone know that they are not alone in their experiences. You may want to use a white board or flip chart to note down challenges.
- If your group is focusing specifically on communication challenges, the COSI (Client Oriented Scale of Improvement) can be a useful reference. You can work with individual participants to focus each goal to make it appropriate for the class. This may mean focusing a broad concern into a specific problem.
For example: "I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job because of my hearing problem" can be modified to "because I don't hear everything during a meeting I rarely participate and my boss thinks I am not doing my job." This makes it easier to focus on tangible challenges and solutions.
For more inspiration, Hickson, Worral and Scarinci describe a two-part exercise where the group works collaboratively to select important problems identified by group members to work on during group sessions in their book on the ACE (Active Communication Education) program.
Sam Trychin asks his Group AR participants to contemplate one issue with their hearing loss that motivated them to participate in the program.
Toward the end of the session, ask the group if there is anything in particular that they would like to learn more about. Possible topics could be: Assistive listening devices, hearing aid expectations, traveling tips, “Why won’t he/she wear their hearing aids?” “Why won’t he/she get hearing aids?” tinnitus, how the ear works, cochlear implants, or more examples of communications challenges they’d like to work on.
If there isn’t time to answer their questions, ask participants to write them down for the next session.
You can also recommend Sam Trychin’s Living With Hearing Loss: Workbook (2002) for exercises that group members can work on at home to help them with their daily challenges.