Language and Communication for Children with Visual Impairments

This section presents information on the development of language and communication skills in young children who are blind or visually impaired.  Parents can explore strategies for establishing communication, fostering the use of language, and the use of tactile and object cues in helping the child to understand his environment.
 
Below is a list of topics you'll find in this section. Click on a title to jump to a specific topic.
 
 

Language Development

FamilyConnect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments 
This article discusses vocabulary-building and the importance of teaching children with visual impairments how nonverbal behavior and body language contribute to communication.
 
FamilyConnect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments 
This article explains how learning about communication and language differs for a baby who is visually impaired, and offers suggestions for helping your child learn to communicate.
 
FamilyConnect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments 
Find out about some common concerns in the language development of young children with visual impairments and learn what you can do to help.
 
When Worlds Collide: Assessment and Intervention for Children with Visual Impairment
Perkins eLearning Webinar (2 parts)
Join professionals Diane Evrard and Lisa Reale from the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in a discussion of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This webinar, presented in 2 parts, includes video case studies of children at different levels of communicative skill.
 
WonderBaby.org
Mary McDonach explains the pattern of speech development in which children repeat what has been said to them.
 

Communication Systems

FamilyConnect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments 
The articles in this section offer a wealth of information on alternate methods of communication, including symbol systems, schedules, and sign language.
 
This assessment tool is designed to pinpoint exactly how a child is currently communicating and to assist in creating communication goals. This user-friendly online version is aimed at parents whose children have severe multiple disabilities. Available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Czech.
 
Iowa Deafblind Project
The New England Consortium of Deafblind (NCDB) Projects offers this practical guide to creating a communication portfolio. It includes sections on the family's perspective, socialization, educational practices, adaptations, sample forms, and much more; 120.pp. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
 
Project SALUTE
Project SALUTE describes the hierarchy of communication symbols, from most abstract to most concrete. Color photographs of each of the eleven symbols are included; available in English and Spanish. We present direct links to their various projects here.
 
Describes the hierarchy of communication symbols, from most abstract to most concrete. Color photographs of each of the eleven symbols are included; available in English and Spanish.
 
Project SALUTE explains object cues, a "concrete means of supporting conversational interactions and language development." Included are examples, advantages, disadvantages, and specific strategies; available in English and Spanish.
 
This information sheet provides a thorough introduction to tactile communication strategies, including general interaction tips, suggestions for encouraging communication, and requirements for a communication system; in English and Spanish.
 
This introduction to tangible symbols includes a definition, examples, considerations, and a list of advantages and disadvantages; available in English and Spanish.
 
This information sheet introduces touch cues, including their purpose, examples of their use, considerations, advantages, and disadvantages; available in English and Spanish.
 
Design to Learn
This site offers a wealth of practical information about communicating with individuals who don't use abstract symbols or a formal language system. Topics include setting up a system, constructing tangible symbols, and tips from the field.
 
U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) – Ideas that Work, Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities
Charity Rowland and Philip Schweigert provide an in-depth introduction to tangible symbol systems, including their purpose, receptive and expressive communication, getting started, and monitoring progress.
 
Perkins School for the Blind
This webcast provides an overview of using tangible symbols to communicate.  Children who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities or deafblindness often need a way to augment their communication, both receptively and expressively.  Objects, partial objects, and other concrete representations are helpful tools for children in the early stages of literacy.
 
Perkins eLearning Webinars
Nathalie de Wit, of Perkins School for the Blind, addresses  using assistive technology devices both low tech and high tech to teach basic communication to students who are blind or have low vision with significant multiple disabilities.
 

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Assessment of young children who are blind

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