tactile attention involves joint attention and sharing an activity
or object through non-controlling mutual touch.
provide a means of communicative reciprocity between the child and
a communication partner. Mutual tactile attention encourages the childs
involvement in social interaction.
strategies are useful for children who are deaf and totally blind
and/or who may not understand speech because of sensory impairment
or developmental level.
Tommy is playing with his hands. His mother gently touches the
back of his hands and imitates his movements so he can feel it,
which communicates, "I see you playing with your hands."
Juan is pulling bells on a mobile. His sister touches his fingers
and the bell, which communicates, "Lets play together."
Joanna is splashing in her bath. Her father puts his fingers under
her hands and splashes, which communicates, "Youre
splashing, thats fun!"
Derek is banging a drum. A friend places his hands right beside
Dereks so they are touching and bangs the drum, which communicates,
" That looks like fun, can I do it too?"
year old Alexis is feeling the vibration of the dishwasher. Her
mother puts her hand right beside Alexis so they are touching,
which communicates, "The dishwasher is on. Can you feel it?"
Francisco is handling a large seashell. His teacher puts two fingers
slightly under Franciscos hand and feels the shell, which
communicates, "Wow, this is cool! It's bumpy."
Mai Ling is petting her dog. Her brother places his hand right
beside hers and pets the dog, which communicates, "Can I
pet Archie too? He is a good dog."
factors (e.g., age, physical and cognitive abilities, family culture
and experience) will influence a childs reaction to attempts
to engage him or her in mutual tactile attention.
tactile attention requires sensitive, non-disruptive, and non-controlling
touch that follows the childs lead by focusing on what the
child is doing.
tactile attention enables a communication partner to demonstrate
interest in what the child is doing in a way that the child can
tactile attention can be used to expand the childs level
of participation in an activity by including additional actions
tactile attention provides a foundation for the development of
conversational turn taking.
tactile attention may be uncomfortable for the communication partner
and the receiver because of differences in their age, gender,
relationship, culture, and experiences.
use of touch that is selected poorly or used inappropriately may
startle, annoy, or confuse the child.
tactile attention may interrupt the childs focus on and
involvement with the activity.
the communication partner is trying to communicate through mutual
tactile attention may not be clear to the child.
by using the type of touch that the child prefers and is the least
intrusive. For instance, if the child likes to play on the slide
and accepts the sides of his hands being touched, then when he
is sitting on the slide, put a hand beside his and keep it there
while he slides down. This is communicating, "I see you sliding.
You like it a lot."
an object that the child likes and is handling. Slide a finger
under the childs fingers as if to say, "I see what
youre doing. Can I join you?"
the child has accepted your interaction and you are both engaged
in the activity, introduce slight changes (e.g., you are both
playing with play dough and poking your fingers in it, start making
"a snake" by rolling it out with your hand right beside
the childs hand so they are touching).
speech and/or tactile sign to name what you have touched or done
careful not to control the childs movements
Tactile Attention is a synthesis of information from the Project
SALUTEs focus groups, National Advisory Committee, staff activities,
and a review of relevant literature such as the following bibliography.
S.B. (1998). Understanding and preventing learned helplessness in children
who are congenitally deaf-blind. Journal of Visual Impairment &
Blindness, 9, (30), 200-211.
(1997). The hands of a person who is deaf-blind: Tools, sensory organs,
voice. Proceedings of the National Conference on Deaf-Blindness:
The Individual in a Changing Society (pp. 541-557), Washington,
(1999). Talking the language of the hands to the hands. Monmouth,
OR: Deaf-Blind Link, The National Information Clearinghouse on Children
who are Deaf-Blind.
B. (2001). Touch. In. L. Alsop (Ed.), Understanding Deafblindness.
(pp. 199-243). Utah: SKI-HI Institute.
Smith, M. (1998).
Feelingroovy: Functional tactual skills.[On-line] www.tsbvi.edu/Outreach/seehear/summer98/groovy.htm.
Impaired Preschool Services (1996). Hands on experience: Tactual
learning skills. Can Do! Series [video]. Louisville, KY: Author.