A woman provides a demo of deafblind total communication to a classroom at Wheelock College
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Communicating effectively: assessment and skill-building for strong social skills

Effective communication is the key to social connections, self-advocacy and participation in daily activities

Effective communication skills are key to an individual’s participation in daily activities, including expressing wants and needs, engaging with others, forming friendships, navigating interactions with a variety of communication partners in a variety of environments, and self-advocating.

Communication skills also include making comments, sharing feelings, expressing opinions, understanding language, and rejecting/refusing unwanted items or activities. Of note, individuals with visual impairments experience reduced opportunities for incidental learning of language and social skills. As such, they often benefit from explicit instruction in order to make language learning opportunities more accessible.

Development of communication and social skills, for individuals who use any communication modality (e.g., speech, communication devices, manual signs, etc.), promotes independence and creates opportunities for growth.

Social communication skills help individuals engage with peers and participate in vocational experiences. For example, individuals who work in retail will use a variety of social skills to interact with others, including customers, managers, and coworkers. This may include greeting others, asking and answering questions, initiating and maintaining conversation, and sharing information. Individuals who continue on to post-secondary education will also benefit from developing social skills to communicate effectively with classmates, form friendships, and interact with professors.

Key skills in effective communication and building social connections include:

Age-related considerations

Communication and social skills should be accessible to all individuals, regardless of their primary mode of communication (e.g., speech, augmentative and alternative communication materials and devices, manual signs or sign language).

Resources and assessments

These resources will provide additional insight into practicing effective communication and building social skills:

Many standardized assessments are not designed for individuals with visual impairments; as such, they may be administered informally as part of a comprehensive evaluation that uses multiple tools or measures to assess language skills, including, but not limited to:

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