Did you get a chance to watch on Communication Exchange hosted by National Center of Deaf/Blindness? We hope you were able to, but wanted to give you some highlights incase you just haven’t gotten there yet! 

The webinar was presented by- Susan M. Bashinski, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Missouri Western State University- who started to discuss how to lay the foundation to communication with someone who is deaf/blind. In the webinar she went over the learning objective:

  • Explain one way in which 3 or 4 of the key “Communication Reminders” discussed in the webinar can be part of one’s own daily life practice.
  • Describe elements of a routine that can make a critical contribution to a child’s ability to feel sufficiently safe and secure to reach out to those around her in a communicative manner.
  • Contrast the differences between (a) nonsymbolic and symbolic and (b) non-intentional and intentional communication.

While we understand how important communication is- we learned so much and got a new perspective on communication from this webinar. To start off, Susan explains that everyone communicates somehow. Be it verbal/written or more non conventional ways like noises (not words) and behavior- every individual is able to communicate if the caregiver/partner is able to listen. Us as caretakers have the responsibility to decipher and help develop a communication system. What exactly does this mean? We understand that to mean that the way an individual conducts themselves through noise, body language and their environment is all communication and we just have to be present enough to understand them. For example, Jacob is nonverbal but is very vocal. While he cannot communicate verbally to tell us he would like to use a cell phone or take a photo- if we pay attention we know he does. Jacob uses ASL as well as reaching out to his caregiver and grunting when he wants something. This is his way of communicating- though it is not conventional or verbal, we know his need. We loved Susan’s mantra which she shared in the webinar “not being able to speak is NOT the same as not having anything to say.” Jacob communicates with his caregivers, family and friends everyday in his own way. The best way to communicate with someone who has some level of deaf/blindness is to be present and attuned to the individual! You may be able to have a verbal conversation with a friend while being in two separate rooms of a house, one of you washing dishes while the other clears a table- but still be able to have a full conversation easily.  This is not the case when communicating with a deaf/blind individual. Non-verbal communication can be quick and subtle. The communication partner needs to be tuned in and available to catch and communicate with the individual. 

Another form of non-verbal communication is behavior. Did you know that behaviors are often times the individual communicating? Many individuals with deaf/blind or any developmental disability will individual will use their behavior for the purpose of affecting another person. Much as a toddler would, individuals know that a certain behavior will get the attention of their caregiver- who then will have a reaction. A individual who is seen hitting their head on the wall may have multiple reason for doing so- such as they may like how it feels or the reaction from it,  but also they know that someone will come and stop them. Thus, they get attention. 

Communication style is individual to the persona and their skills and sensory motor experience. What does that mean though? Let’s use Jacob as an example- he is mostly non-verbal and his skills for communication are written language, ASL, and using his environment by showing photos and leading his caregivers to what he wants. We as a team were able to help him build these skills and interpret them into his own way of communication. Susan stated in her webinar that consistently responding in a predictable way is key to helping develop these skills. So, we as Jacob’s team evaluate what works for his communication style and all use the same tools. In building his communication skills we are helping him to be successful in his daily life in his community. 

Lastly, Susan touched on symbolic and non-symbolic communication. These will be discussed in more depth in the next webinar- which will be held on March 21st at 12pm! 

Pre-registration is not required, but it is recommended to test your computer before start time to make sure your adobe is up to speed! 

Laying the Foundation for Communication Exchange: Part 2 – Strategies

If you would like to watch PT. 1 it is available by following this link.