Language and Communication

for Children with Visual Impairments or Blindness

This section presents information on the development of language and communication skills in young children who are blind or visually impaired.  Parents can explore strategies for establishing communication, fostering the use of language, and the use of tactile and object cues in helping the child to understand his environment.

Below is a list of topics you'll find in this section. Click on a title to jump to a specific topic.

Establishing Communication

Communication Fact Sheets for Parents
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness  (NCDB)
These fact sheets inform parents on all aspects of communication. Each sheet defines the topic, explains its importance, and offers tips and important points to remember; available in English and Spanish; 65pp.

The Communication Portfolio
Perkins eLearning Webcasts
Learn how to develop and use a Communication Portfolio for learners with deafblindness and multiple disabilities. Susan DeCaluwe explains this personalized view of the learner’s communication skills, abilities and challenges across all environments.

Communication: What is he trying to tell me?
California Deaf-Blind Services
Many behaviors are a form of communication, and this tip sheet reminds caregivers and educators of the basics.  CADBS fact sheets are also available in other languages.  Click here for a complete list.

Creating A Need to Communicate
California Deaf-Blind Services
CDBS's fact sheet provides specific strategies and activities that create a need for the child to communicate; available in English and Chinese. CADBS fact sheets are also available in other languages. Click here for a complete list.

Early Interactions with Children Who Are Deaf-Blind
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness
This article by Deborah Gleason offers a wealth of ideas to help you discover how you can make your child's world safe and understandable, and how you and your young child can share many enjoyable conversations together; available in English, Spanish, and Indonesian.

Learning to Communicate: Strategies for Developing Communication with Infants whose Multiple Disabilities Include Visual Impairment and Hearing Loss
California Deaf-Blind Services
In this 6-page article, Deborah Chen outlines specific strategies for developing communication: observation, engaging the child's available senses, cues, key word signs, interrupted routine strategy, and selecting the child's first signs. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Language Development

Building Language Skills
Family Connect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
This article discusses vocabulary-building and the importance of teaching children with visual impairments how nonverbal behavior and body language contribute to communication.

Helping Your Baby Develop Language
Family Connect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
This article offers suggestions for helping your child to learn about communication and language.

Toddlers' Language Development
Family Connect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
Find out about some common concerns in the language development of young children with visual impairments and learn what you can do to help.

When Worlds Collide: Assessment and Intervention for Children with Visual Impairment
Perkins eLearning Webinar (2 parts)
Join professionals from the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in a discussion of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This webinar, presented in 2 parts, includes video case studies of children at different levels of communicative skill.
Part 1: http://perkins.adobeconnect.com/p9i3p14frcr/
Part 2: http://perkins.adobeconnect.com/p4df8yqocmd/

 

You Can Say That Again! or... "Echolalia, echolalia, echolalia,"
WonderBaby.org
Mary McDonach explains the pattern of speech development in which children repeat what has been said to them.

Communication Systems

Communication
Family Connect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
The articles in this section offer a wealth of information on alternate methods of communication, including symbol systems, schedules, and sign language.

Communication Matrix
This assessment tool is designed to pinpoint exactly how a child is currently communicating and to assist in creating communication goals. This user-friendly online version is aimed at parents whose children have severe multiple disabilities; available in English and Spanish.

AAC Strategies for Young Children with Vision Impairment and Multiple Disabilities
California School for the Blind
In this article on Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC), Marjorie Goldware and Marsha Silver present "the issues central to communicative/cognitive development in the visually impaired/blind child with multiple impairments" and review devices that can assist in communication.

Communicating and Connecting with Learners who are Deafblind: Developing Communication Portfolios
Iowa Deafblind Project
The New England Consortium of Deafblind (NCDB) Projects offers this practical guide to creating a communication portfolio. It includes sections on the family's perspective, socialization, educational practices, adaptations, sample forms, and much more; 120.pp. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)


Tactile Learning Strategies
Project SALUTE
Project SALUTE describes the hierarchy of communication symbols, from most abstract to most concrete. Color photographs of each of the eleven symbols are included; available in English and Spanish. We present direct links to their various projects here.

Communication Symbols
Describes the hierarchy of communication symbols, from most abstract to most concrete. Color photographs of each of the eleven symbols are included; available in English and Spanish.

Object Cue
Project SALUTE explains object cues, a "concrete means of supporting conversational interactions and language development." Included are examples, advantages, disadvantages, and specific strategies; available in English and Spanish.

Tactile Communication Strategies
This information sheet provides a thorough introduction to tactile communication strategies, including general interaction tips, suggestions for encouraging communication, and requirements for a communication system; in English and Spanish.

Tangible Symbols
This introduction to tangible symbols includes a definition, examples, considerations, and a list of advantages and disadvantages; available in English and Spanish.

Touch Cues
This information sheet introduces touch cues, including their purpose, examples of their use, considerations, advantages, and disadvantages; available in English and Spanish.

Tangible Symbol Systems
Design to Learn
This site offers a wealth of practical information about communicating with individuals who don't use abstract symbols or a formal language system. Topics include setting up a system, constructing tangible symbols, and tips from the field.

Tangible Symbol Systems: Making the Right to Communicate a Reality for Individuals with Severe Disabilities
U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) – Ideas that Work, Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities
Charity Rowland and Philip Schweigert provide an in-depth introduction to tangible symbol systems, including their purpose, receptive and expressive communication, getting started, and monitoring progress.

Tangible Symbols Webcast
Perkins School for the Blind
This webcast provides an overview of using tangible symbols to communicate.  Children who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities or deafblindness often need a way to augment their communication, both receptively and expressively.  Objects, partial objects, and other concrete representations are helpful tools for children in the early stages of literacy.

Technology for Us, Too
Perkins eLearning Webinars
Nathalie de Wit, of Perkins School for the Blind, addresses  using assistive technology devices both low tech and high tech to teach basic communication to students who are blind or have low vision with significant multiple disabilities.