This past week I enthusiastically attended American Foundation for the Blind’s leadership conference just outside of Washington, DC. Since returning home to Delaware, I have been reflecting on which message or session was the most personally impactful of the event; I choose the words of Linda Hagood, Speech Language Pathologist of Washington State School for the Blind.
Ms. Hagood spoke on teaching students who are blind or visually impaired and autistic or are otherwise communicatively delayed. She began by addressing typical approaches to educational programming: symbol systems, calendar systems, and predictable routines. She agreed all are valuable strategies for promoting communication at home and school.
Foundation of Communication Development
Ms. Hagood went on to say what we parents and teachers instinctively know, yet often forget. I quote her words, “relationships are the foundation for all other learning.”
It’s common to attempt strategies and tools which will encourage communication development in children, yet overlook emerging communication only occurs where there is an authentic connection. In other words, we focus on accommodations instead of focusing on developing a relationship of trust and enjoyment between ourselves and our children (or for teachers of students with visual impairments, our students).
Article Series: Delayed Communication Development
Keeping this in mind, I was thrilled to read American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) FamilyConnect’s latest article series, Delayed Communication Development in Blind and Visually Impaired Children. Here, author Carla A. Brooks discusses:
- Nonverbal Communication in Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired,
- The Importance of Single Word Development, and
- Expanding Meaning by Combining Words.
Emphasized and weaved throughout the articles are the goals of playing and experiencing life in ways meaningful to your child. Out of these times of bonding arise the development of concepts and your child’s desire to express himself in order to communicate with you.
Ms. Brooks brilliantly teaches us to pair positive experiences with specific strategies for encouraging nonverbal and verbal communication.
Thank you, Ms. Brooks. We are ever so grateful for your expert guidance.