A child sitting at a table with her hands placing small pegs into braille cells. 
June DowningListen to June Downing’s advice on how families can support their child’s sensory efficiency and tactile communication skills.


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

How can parents and other family members support their child’s acquisition of skills related to sensory efficiency and communication through tactual sense? What would you like to ask families to do at home?

Well, I think that perhaps the most important thing is that interaction with the child tactilely is going to be very important and should be basically happening as much as possible throughout the day, in really normal types of interactions that you would do with any child.

Also, I think it’s important to remember that children who are deaf-blind usually have functional vision and functional hearing, or one or the other. And so those senses should be used as much as humanly possible. So we’re not going to discount the information that that child gets through eyes and through ears, but we’re also going to realize that this child needs to have a lot of different experiences. And so I would say normalizing the child’s life as much as possible, taking that child everywhere, making sure that they’re not just sitting in space, that they’re touching things with their body, with their hands, with their knees, with their legs, with their feet, with their head, with their chest, that it’s not just the hands, especially for those who have, maybe, cerebral palsy and maybe don’t have a good use of their hands and can’t use them very well. That might not be the best way for them to gain information.

But I think just interact with the child all the time as much as possible. Even little things like household chores—setting the table, taking the trash out, walking the dog. Everything should be brought to the child and let the child feel while hearing, if possible, and seeing what’s going on so that the child has many, many, many repetitions of words and experiences to link the two. So I would want to encourage the child’s active exploration of the world around him or her using whatever body part makes the most sense for that child. And they’ll figure it out for themselves. They may use the side of their cheeks, or they may use their stomachs, or they may use their backs, or they may use their feet, and that’s all fine. We just want to make sure that what they’re feeling and experiencing, that we start to get it into a routine and get them to feel something, anticipate that an activity is going to happen as a result of feeling that, so they can start to connect these tactile sensations with an activity that may happen. And that way they can start to ask for things and can later talk about things.

So just, I guess, for the family to normalize, to include that child in all family activities and outings and then make sure that the world is brought to him or her and that the child is just not sitting there in isolation.