Linda Mamer Listen to Linda Mamers’s advice on the three things parents most need to know about communication skills for a child who is deaf-blind.


Hello, I’m Linda Mamer, and currently, I am a provincial deaf-blind consultant in British Columbia, Canada.

Why don’t you share with me your thoughts on three things that you think are really important for parents to keep in mind when they’re trying to develop communication skills with their child who is deaf-blind or who may have significant cognitive disability.

Well, parents first need to think about your child as an expressive communicator. Initially, this may not seem possible; however, having this as a goal really helps to focus the team.

Then, looking at a total communication approach, which includes environmental cues, touch cues, gestures, voice, object cues, picsims, print, braille, augmentative communication devices, can all be considered. The team needs to then look at each possible area of the receptive communication mode and initially expose the child to those modes. At the same time, you can begin to look at your child for signs that they’re already using to communicate with you expressively. For example, pointing at something, perhaps change of breathing, trying to imitate a sign, increased vocalization, some way that they’re trying to connect with you.

And the third way, parents need to have realistic communication goals for their child regardless of their level of additional disability. The school team—again, including the parents—need to really look at the child, get to know their functional visual ability, their residual hearing ability, the child’s ability to tactilely explore so that the communication strategies are appropriate. It’s important, very important, that the parents have hope and belief that their child will begin to communicate.