Many students who come to Dearborn have not had many supportive peer relationships. Some have been bullied, others have not had the opportunitities to create and nurture close friendships. But human beings are social beings and need to have good friends. We all need to trust others, share ideas, collaborate, and experience the many dimensions of friendship. Learning is richer when we learn with friends—they are key to both academic success and happiness.
Creating a school where students who have not had many friends can begin to make good friendships is an essential part of our mission. Helping students navigate and maintain healthy social relationships is central to our work at Dearborn.
At Dearborn social skill development is a priority throughout the day—in class, in activities, during meals and in therapy.
How do students learn the art of friendship? They watch it modeled for them and they receive specific coaching. Staff at Dearborn model kindness and compassion and notice when students are acting in generous ways towards one another. Friendships are complex and need attention and nuturance. Students receive feedback and support from all staff to notice what friends need and explore the sometimes opaque nuances of communication — especially in the world of social media. Some students with social challenges resulting from diagnosed communication disorders receive more specialized instruction modeled on Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Methodology. When troubles inevitably arise in relationships students are reminded that all friendships — indeed all relationships — have ups and downs and are supported to use the structure of restorative practices to express themselves.