June Downing Listen to June Downing’s advice on the three things parents most need to know about the tactile communication.


Hi, my name is Dr. June Downing. I’m a Professor Emeritus from California State University, Northridge.

What are three things you want to ensure that parents know about tactual communication?

I think that one of the most important things for parents to know is that tactile communication is one form of a variety of different kinds of communication that all other…that all ways for that child to communicate, such as body language, facial expressions, natural gestures, any kinds of movements, vocalizations that the child may make, use of objects, everything is part of a communications system for that child. So it’s not just one thing that the child is going to use to communicate but a number of different things that the child is going to use.

The other thing that I think is important is that because the sense of touch takes a bit longer to use than perhaps the distance sense of vision or hearing, more time is going to be needed for that child to experience things and to feel things and to learn that association between things that are being felt and what they actually mean in that child’s life—what that child can anticipate happening. So more time is needed to let that child use his or her hands to explore the world tactilely so that those can become communication symbols for that child.

And I think finally the third thing I think is very important is to realize that there is really no universal system out there unless of course, you’re using a tactile American Sign Language. But basically, each system that’s going to be tactile for a child will be highly individualized and will be determined by the child—the child’s interests, the child’s ability to move, the child’s use of fingers and hands, the child’s preferred physical positioning in space, just what the child likes to touch and to feel and how that child likes to be touched and feel, and how he likes others to touch him, and how he likes to have objects introduced to him or her. So it’s very individualized, and it just can’t be one system that’s going to work for every child.