Play and Communication for Children with Visual Impairment and Additional Support Needs
Presented on Monday & Tuesday 1 & 2 December 2008
Communication and movement interaction
Theory and Practice
Royal Blind School, Edinburgh
Communication is the most important thing that a child will ever learn
It gives them:
- A voice (self-esteem)
- Some control over their own lives
- A social life
Without these, they may develop:
- Unusual 'challenging' behaviours
- Withdrawal from the world
- Learned helplessness
By treating the learner as social and communicative, she/he gradually becomes so. We show
the child through our actions that what she/he does has meaning to us. We treat the behaviour
as meaningful ... In this way the learner begins to understand that a behaviour can have a
Hewett and Nind (1993)
Starting with the child
- Offering the right kind of support - responsive not directive
- Adopting an observational attitude - what motivates the child with visual impairment?
- Being aware of how children learn in the early developmental stages - concrete experiential learning.
Early developmental levels
- Sensori-motor period - concrete experiential learning
- Children learn to know selves first
- Learn by taking part in social exchanges
- Parents are not instructing
In 'mother-infant interaction' the parent is not instructing his/her child, he/she takes on the subordinate role by:
- Reponding (Recognising)
- Supporting and helping (Adapting and facilitating)
- Feeding back (Phasing)
- Encouraging (Elaborating)
- Infants come to life with a 'sense of self'
- Babies are born with a mechanism of personality, one sensitive to persons and expressing itself like a person does.
- Infants' behaviour towards objects is essentially different to their behaviour towards people.
- Social behaviour - a 'sharing of mental state'
Both partners express comlex purposive impulses in a form that is infectious
for the other. It is difficult to perceive any content in the communication
except for the exchange itself.
Interaction and rhythm
- Mother/infant interaction is a highly visual skill
- Parents of children with visual impairment speak of feelings of rejection
- The infant's behaviour is also organised in time, based on shared rhythms
Study of parents of children with visual impairment
- Skilled in picking up tiny signals, eg; raised eyebrows, opening of the mouth, small shifts of position
- 'Dramatise' these using sound and movement, eg; they might laugh when the baby smiled
- 'Making visible' the baby's response
Movement interaction develops the child's basic need to:
- Make contact with others
- Build relationships
- Take control of his environment
At birth all infants possess an inborn and very strong motivation to communicate
The spontaneous and natural use of:
- Facial expression
If the child has impaired sight, then the adult can respond by using:
- Direct physical contact (if accepted)
- Hand clapping
- Body sounds
All in the form of shared rhythms.
Child gradually realises his actions carry meaning, can make things happen.
Particularly important for the child with visual impairment:
- Fragile grasp of the process of communication
- Not experienced powerful effect of mutual gaze
- He has not learnt by observation
- Vision also provides motivation
The child learns that he can:
- Take control
Once the child knows he can initiate and make things happen, then this opens up a world of possibilities.
Similarity triggers attention and difference sustains it
Stages in Non-verbal Communication
Knowledge of these stages can help us to develop our interactions with the child.
Strategies used by the child
- Movement preferences
- Rhythm and timing