Future Reflections Fall 1995, Vol. 14 No. 3



by Linda Zani Thomas and Christine Bottino, MA, SLP-CFY

Editor's Note: This article is the second in a series designed for parents of blind and multiply handicapped children. The first article was published in Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents of Blind Children, volume14, number 1.

Communication skills are crucial for multiply handicapped visually impaired kids. Through the development of receptive and expressive communication, children effectively interact with others and therefore exert greater control over their lives. Parents should initially concentrate on developing hand signals or sounds to convey the following seven basic needs:

1. drink
2. eat
3. more
4. no more
5. requesting interaction with others
6. pain or discomfort
7. toilet needs
Each of these are very important to a child's health and safety, and the successful mastery of signs or spoken words for these seven needs will give your child a real sense of accomplishment and boost his/her self-esteem.

Basic receptive and expressive communication skills will also make life a lot easier for you, especially as it helps you know if and when your child is in pain or discomfort.

Here's how to start:

Observe your child's behavior when he or she is in any of the seven situations listed above. Is there a gesture, sound, or cry they make to let you know they're hungry for example? When they are making the hunger sound or gesture (such as putting their hand in their mouth), repeat a simple word for food such as "mm" or "eat." Be consistent and immediate in your responseCrepetition increases the chances of your child making the connection and eventually substituting words for gestures!

Reinforce your family care-givers' names with your child. As many times as possible, insert "MaMa" or "DaDa" in describing the activities you are doing. Eventually, they will call you for attention by name!

Concentrate on words that are simple and contain the earliest and easiest sounds for a child to produce. Historically, children start with the following consonants: M, N, B, P, and W. AD@ is commonly used at a young age as well.

Become a blabbermouth! Describe all activities your child is experiencing, this way he/she can start to label things with which they commonly come into contact.

Do as many hands-on activities as possible. Narrate your activities while providing kinesthetic and tactile (touch) input to reinforce their interactions and participation in activities.