Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The State of Research on Communication and Literacy in Deafblindness

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The State of Research on Communication and Literacy in Deafblindness

Article excerpt

Although relatively few in number, individuals who are deafblind are one of the most heterogeneous of the disability groups, with wide variation in vision and hearing loss as well as presence, type, and severity of additional disabilities. In fact, most individuals who meet the federal definition of deafblindness have some functional vision and or hearing. The impact of deafblindness cannot be understood by adding the impact of the visual impairment to that of the hearing loss because the distance senses of vision and hearing interact in a fundamental way to support learning and development (Bruce & Borders, 2015). Communication is considered one of the most important areas of educational intervention because many learners who are deafblind struggle to develop language. In particular, deafblindness limits opportunities to learn communication skills through observation and imitation, creating the need for direct instruction (Parker, Grimmett, & Summers, 2008). Thus, learners who are deafblind are reliant on teachers and other professionals who are knowledgeable about both the impact of deafblindness and the state of research evidence for communication interventions.

Communication is one of the more developed areas of research in the field of deafblindness (Ferrell, Bruce, & Luckner, 2014), yet the heterogeneity of the population creates continuing challenges to both researchers and consumers of research on deafblindness and communication instruction. For these reasons, in the research synthesis presented in the present article, we provide a framework for bringing together and describing the evidence base on methodologies for supporting the communication development of children and youth who are deafblind. In addition, literacy is incorporated because new views of it go beyond traditional perceptions of literacy as the ability to read and write, to include communication and new technologies that promote interactions. Included in this research synthesis are both quantitative and qualitative studies on instructional practices in communication intervention. A search of online databases such as PsychINFO, ERIC, EBSCO host, and Google Scholar was conducted, along with reviews of metaanalyses and syntheses, to locate articles about communication studies that included children who are deafblind. Only peer-reviewed articles on findings from communication and interaction studies involving children and young adults who are deafblind (ages 0-22 years) and published from 1990 to 2015 are included. Table 1 presents the reference for each study discussed, the number of participants, the primary intervention(s), and results.

Communication Frameworks and Approaches

Comprehensive communication programming must be closely tailored to the needs and strengths of each child while addressing the four aspects of communication: form (also known as mode), function (purpose of the expression), content (message), and context. The aspect of context includes these five components: physical environment, individual characteristics (disability and nondisability), activity and routine, communication partners, and the process of communication (initiating, sustaining, and terminating conversations; Bruce, 2002).

Both child-guided and systematic instructional approaches have been found effective in communication programming for children and youth who are deafblind, although the instructional targets of each approach differ. Child-guided approaches, such as van Dijk's Curricular Approach and his assessment approach, have been applied to support overall communication development in prelingual-to-emerging linguistic learners (MacFarland, 1995; C. Nelson, van Dijk, McDonnell, & Thompson, 2002). Child-guided strategies include establishing trust; responding to the child's interests, actions, and attempts at communication; communicating using the child's expressive forms; selecting representations that are salient to the child's perceptions and experiences; participating in different forms of dialogue; and coactive techniques (Janssen, Riksen-Walraven, & van Dijk, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.