Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Supporting Communication for Learners who are Deaf-Blind and/or have Multiple Disabilities

Top portion of communication poster

This document was created by the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative to help teams to think about how best to support communication for learners who are deafblind or who have multiple disabilities. There is a space for student notes at the end of each section.

Behaviors

  • Reflexive Actions
    • Examples:
      • Body tension & relaxation
      • Changes in breathing & heart rate
      • Facial and visual reflexes (grimace, smile, squinting, blinking)
    • Strategies
      • Make yourself physically available
      • Interpret what the child’s behavior might mean
      • Provide feedback to let the child know that you are responding to his/her action
      • Use touch cues and name cues consistently
 
  • Purposeful Actions
    • Examples:
      • Moving toward or away from item, taking wanted item or throwing/dropping unwanted item
      • Intentional facial expression not directed at a person (smile, frown)
      • Self-injurious behaviors
      • Sensory-seeking behaviors
    • Strategies:
      • Joint attention to objects and activities
      • Interpret the function of the behavior
      • Involve yourself in the action & the action when child is involved in sensory-seeking behaviors
      • Consistent use of touch cues, name cue

 

Communication Variations

  • Unconventional Communication Variations
    • Examples:
      • Pulling hand or clothing
      • Vocalizing towards a person
      • Directed facial expression (to a person or item)
    • Strategies:
      • Interpret the function of the unconventional communication
      • Model conventional gestures and shape unconventional gestures
      • Use hand-under-hand signing
      • Use concrete symbols for anticipating activities
 
  • Conventional Communication Variations
    • ​Examples:
      • Pointing
      • Shaking head yes/no
      • Looking back/forth between person & wanted item
      • Waving hi/bye
    • Strategies
      • Model increased number of conventional gestures in more activities
      • Provide increased exposure to accessible language (sign, speech, AAC, print/Braille)
      • Target specific meaningful, functional words that are throughout the day
      • Use concrete symbols in a calendar system to plan and review the day

 

Concrete Symbols: Tangible Symbols, Object Cues, Photos & Drawings

Symbolic Language

  • Abstract Symbols
    • Examples
      • Expressive or receptive use of single utterances
      • Spoken word or sign
      • Alternative & Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems
      • Print or Braille
    • Strategies
      • Create a first words inventory and share with the team
      • Model combinations of words many times (“more”+”drink”) in targeted activities
      • Use concrete symbols in a calendar system to plan and review the day
      • Provide opportunities to practice multiple times in an activity
 
  • Combined Symbols
    • Examples
      • Two or more abstract symbols, words or signs produced together; Examples: ‘more drink’, ‘play finish’
    • Strategies
      • Model examples of combined symbols, in more activities and with more people
      • Plan activities that provide opportunities to practice combinations
      • Increase exposure to formalized language
      • Create an updated vocabulary inventory to share with the team

 

Formalized Language

  • Examples:
    • Teach specific grammar, syntax, and other rules of language
    • Provide access to fluent individuals, including peers
    • Target higher language goals and integrate into literacy goals
    • Provide constant access to language across environments
  • Strategies
    • Teach specific grammar, syntax, and other rules of language
    • Provide access to fluent individuals, including peers
    • Target higher language goals and integrate into literacy goals
    • Provide constant access to language across environments

Supporting Communication for Learners who are Deaf-Blind and/or have Multiple Disabilities

Posted on February 16, 2021
Updated on: February 19, 2021