University of Edinburgh

Establishing and Developing Communication with young people who are multiply disabled and VI or who are multisensory impaired

Friday 26 May 2006

The different layers in communication

These become more and more advanced but the basic foundations remain and are built upon.

  • Linguistic communication
  • Gestural bodily communication
  • Basic communication - contact and sustained contact

then you add more.

Natural learning conditions

Initiated and controlled by the deafblind person. We look to what they are doing and respond to it. Move into their world.

The partner is observant, reactive and responsible for further development, eg; changing time, make it into a game (and learning process).

Natural learning happens within play (characteristics: shared affections, curiosity, discovery through exploration). Sharing emotion is a big part of communication. Smile with your hand (touch lightly).

Main principle:

Functional equivalence is important, eg; where the feet are the eyes. Need to now what to do. Do it intuitively - many parents do this but don't know that they do. Attention will be most solid on the basic senses.

Different expressions - same function - same expression (eg; the child is keeping 'eye contact' when he continues to hold on to you) - different functions.

Shared meaning - a first shared vocabulary

For blind children, this is the most difficult concept. 'Putting experiences and mental images into the mind.' Build up knowledge by repeating things (experiences). Building up knowledge (put it in the head) "The brain is only a small appendix to the body" Danish psychologist.

Communicative expressions

  • Social interaction: How we learn the rules of being together. How do we develop the pattern and advance it. This is where you should focus. Leads to;
  • Proximity, bonding or attachment: Can see parts of yourself and you can develop things for yourself. Share, play and learn together. Leads to;
  • Exploration. Cognitive development. Leave child alone but be and stay available. Have contact when you want to. First exploration starts on the lap of the parent or teacher.

3 basic interactions or relationships never created by one by created together and influencing each other.

Exploration: challenging for us. If you explore mainly with your hands it takes much longer.

Building up mental images:

  • people
  • objects
  • spaces - normally a person has memory of where he is in connection with objects or activities he has just done.
  • events - shared experiences in head are dependent on the experiences you have had.

Mind time for reflection or thinking. Do not move too quickly; avoid too much stimulation.

Social interaction

Primary intersubjectivity

  • dyadic (you and me) - emotional and motor attunement - established at 3 months
  • face to face interaction - expectation alternating patterns - mutual attention
  • 'as if' reciprocity

Secondary intersubjectivity

  • 'as if' give and take game
  • triadic - to include an object not just you and me
  • real give and take game - referential attention - attune / react to each other - established at about 8 months
  • real reciprocity in the dialogue - deafblind children share or gesture not on object
  • 'as if' joint attention
  • joint attention - established at about 1 month

Similarity (being like them / doing what they are doing) triggers attention and

Difference sustains it

But have to introduce new things. Have to try out new activities because you never know when the moment to move on will come.

Vulnerability: As soon as we try to lead too much we will lose them.

  • control of the situation - do not give control away
  • regulation of distance - how close? Can depend on who it is. Not too close
  • the balance between too little and too much (they might be deprived or overstressed)
  • the timing of the contribution of the partner - need time to lead the patterns - need to be slower (often)
  • different and weak expressions
  • the confirmation of the partner - eg; touch their mouth (you want to eat?)

'Musical elements'

Regulation of

  • proximity
  • rhythmicity
  • intensity
  • tempo
  • timing
  • novelty
  • modality
  • affective state
  • locus of attention

eg: child knows a game; vary the pace; add something to it.

Social games:

  • contact games - imitation
  • expectation games - building up eg; trampoline
  • turn-taking games
  • give and take games
  • body games
  • nursery rhymes
  • role transfer
  • narrative (sharing stories) - the story about myself
  • naming - picture book - use of objects for blind children eg; sand + stone - we went to the beach
  • role play

The role of the partner:

  • observant
  • responsible for success
  • responsible for learning

The partner must have:

  • interest, commitment
  • knowledge (process)
  • creativity
  • dare to fail
  • manage little or no progress
  • accept physical and psychological proximity
  • readiness to be bodily and emotionally involved

Quality in interaction:

  • duration (sustained interaction) - how long: development - 2 months ago you could only do . . . now you can do . . . - with breaks in between
  • the distance increases
  • emotional expressions - count the time and smiles, happy faces, excitement; that will give an indication of quality
  • attunement
  • co-construction (reciprocity); sometimes cannot ware that we are speakers and they are the listeners; should be a shared activity
  • transfer to new situations, arenas and people
  • glimpses of more advanced interactional patters; high quality will see signs of next steps
  • functional use of more (residual) senses; hearing has been made recognisable by touch.

The partner meets these challenges:

  • to discover unconventional utterances created by the deafblind person
  • to be able to search for the right interpretation

Preconditions for this is a shared world of interactional experiences.

Sustained interactional flow:

  • high intensity
  • loaded with energy
  • intense concentration
  • openings
  • loaded with emotions
  • leaves bodily emotional traces (BET)