Adaptations for Learning to Use Touch Effectively
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who are deaf-blind need a variety of communication options. Communication
systems should support natural social interactions and conversations
through symbolic and nonsymbolic means. The use of selected tactile
communication modes (e.g., objects, tangible symbols, textured symbols
and signs) should meet the communication needs of an individual child
and supplement the childs body language and other means of communication.
Just as hearing children are exposed to thousands of words before
they begin to talk, children who are deaf-blind need extensive experience
with objects, signs and other symbols during natural, everyday situations
before they can understand their meaning.
for the Child who does not Learn Visually
an important sensory mode
the child to anticipate familiar events
the childs attention to ongoing activity
opportunities for social interaction
participation in activities
meaning to activities
the child learn
receptive and expressive communication
for Communication Partners
thoughtful and organized interaction with the child
observations and responses to the child
an expectation of the childs response
communication that is accessible to the child
the child by touching the back of his or her hand or shoulder.
yourself by saying your name and identifying yourself tactilely
(e.g., name sign, symbol, or identification cue).
and wait for the child's reaction or response.
contact with the child by sitting where you can see the child's
responses and are available as a communication partner. Offer your
hands to the child (e.g., under the childs hands so the child
can grasp your fingers or get your attention). Or place your hand
(s) beside or slightly underneath the childs hand(s) or part
of the body that is engaged in the activity or movement.
the child to explore the environment tactilely, (e.g., to examine
materials on table, to feel your own hands while engaged in a variety
of activities, to examine the activities of others).
your hands under the childs hands as you explore together.
a variety of communicative functions (e.g., request, reject, offer,
comment and attention getting) in the conversation.
Engage in "tactile conversations" about things by touching
them together with the child.
the end of an activity or interaction sign FINISH and tactilely
model for the child how to put objects in a finish box or push them
goodbye before leaving the child by using a goodbye gesture (e.g.,
wave, touch cue on shoulder) and having the child tactilely attend
to this signal.
Responsive to Child Preferences and Actions
the childs preferences and use those actions or objects in
your interaction and in your development of conversations.
how the child responds to being touched and use the type of touch
that is the least intrusive (e.g., put your hand beside the childs
so they are touching, observe his or her response to determine whether
you should take his or her hand).
time for the child to process information and observe the child
for an anticipatory response.
longer than you might for a child of the same age who is not disabled.
to, interpret, and respond immediately to the childs communicative
the child to respond using the most efficient means for him or her
(e.g., pointing, touching a symbol, or handing over a symbol).
During Everyday Activities
tactile communication frequently and consistently with the child
during daily meaningful and age-appropriate activities and across
home, school, and community settings.
situations that motivate the childs communication and in which
tactile communication will be used consistently (e.g., offering
the communication system that will be the most efficient given the
childs needs, abilities, experiences, and daily activities.
Cues and symbols should be accessible to the child, represent the
childs interests, and when possible, have a close physical
association to the referent.
a few cues or symbols consistently and gradually expand them as
the child understands their meaning.
in parallel play using duplicate materials and provide opportunities
for the child to participate in turn taking with objects and other
situations so the child can experience other peers and adults using
the same communication system for similar purposes (e.g., Mary puts
her hand under Sams to use his textured symbols while she
talks to Sam).
a Communicative Response
the childs attentionHave the child feel the object or symbol
for at least 5 seconds (wait time should be determined for the individual
no response: Introduce 1 item under or on the back of the childs
hands, arm, or leg
any movement from the child on the item
hand-under-hand to accept the item from the child
engage in the activity
opportunities within the activity to feel the item and to engage
the childs reactions and respond appropriatelyRepeat the communication
cycle as appropriate
a Need to Communicate
the childs interests and preferences
the child a desired item that requires him or her to ask for help
(e.g., a snack that he or she cannot open)
the child a limited quantity of something that he or she likes to
encourage a request for more
choices on a regular basis throughout the day
the child something that is disliked or unwanted to allow a rejection
favorite objects out of reach for the child to request
a familiar routine or expectation to allow the child to "comment"
a child seems to recognize an object cue or symbol (e.g., smiles
or get excited in anticipation of a favorite activity), check to
see whether the child understands its meaning. How does the child
indicate that he or she understands the meaning of the object cue
or symbol? How does the child respond if you delay offering the
anticipated activity or begin another activity instead of the anticipated
the child makes the connection between object cues or tangible symbols
and their referents, replace concrete object cues with more abstract
ones and increase the number of cues or symbols to expand the childs
opportunities for the child to use familiar object cues or symbols
in multiple situations, with different people including peers, and
offering choices, increase the numbers of options
for a Communication System
childs educational team and family members should agree on
the most effective communication system and tactile strategies that
will be used with the child. They should have a picture and text
dictionary of the childs communication system so that selected
cues, symbols, and signs are used accurately and consistently.
symbols should be organized in a display (e.g., book, board, photo
album, wallet, and calendar box). They should be portable and accessible
to the child at all times.
displays should reflect the childs age, interests, physical
abilities, daily activities, and experiences. They should be labeled
(with word(s), phrases, questions) so communication partners can
understand what they represent.
providers and family members should document how frequently they
use the selected cues, symbols, or signs with the child. They should
observe and note the childs responses. Once the child has
been exposed to consistent use of the communication system, service
providers and family members should determine whether the child
understands the meaning of selected cues, symbols or signs. For
example, does the child understand the object cue (spoon) for lunchtime?
What does the child do if you give him a spoon and wait for his
response before offering the food?
the communication dictionary after regular family/team meetings
on what is working, what needs to be changed, and what needs to
Communication Strategies represents a synthesis of information
from Project SALUTEs focus groups, National Advisory Committee,
staff activities, and a review of relevant literature such as the following
Here for Examples
Here for Michael's Schedule by Marleny Vydelingum and Cheryl
Bahar, Blind Childrens Center
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loss in regard to sign language and fingerspelling for the student
with deaf-blindness. See/Hear [On-line]. http://www.tsbvi.edu/Outreach/seehear/archive/sign.html.
D. (1995). The beginnings of communication: Early childhood. In K.M.
Huebner, J.G. Prickett, T.R. Welch, & E. Joffe (Eds.). Hand
in hand: Essentials of communication and orientation and mobility
for your students who are deaf-blind. (pp.185-218). New York:
J.E. (1999). Teaching communication skills to students with severe
disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
J., Chen, D. (1999). Developing meaningful interventions. In D. Chen
(Ed.). Essential elements in early communication. Visual impairments
and multiple disabilities (pp. 287-336). New York: AFB Press.
M.L. (1982). Pre-sign language motor skills. Tucson, AZ: Communication
D. (1996). Tactile sign. TAC News, 8, 8-11.
M., & McCall, S. (2002). Learning through touch: Supporting
children with visual impairment and additional difficulties. London,
England: David Fulton Publishers.
B. (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,
B. (May, 1999). Talking the language of the hands to the hands.
Monmouth, OR: DeafBlind Link, The National Information Clearinghouse
on Children who are Deaf-Blind.
L. (1991). Spatial relations in congenitally blind infants. A study.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness,85, 11-16.
J.G. (1995). Manual and spoken language. In K.M. Huebner, J.G. Prickett,
T.R. Welch, & E. Joffe (Eds.). Hand in hand: Essentials of
communication and orientation and mobility for your students who are
deaf-blind (pp. 261-287). New York: AFB Press.
M. (1998). Feeling groovy: Functional tactual skills. See/Hear
A., & Andersen, O.V. (1994). Modified sign language for congenitally
deaf-blind people: Ann Thestrup and Ove Vedel Andersen report on developments
in Denmark. Deaf-Blind Education, 13, 16-17.