What Can Professionals Do to Help Parents Teach Their Children to Be Better Communicators?
|Listen to Millie Smith’s advice on what professionals can do to help parents teach their child to be better communicators.|
I am Millie Smith, and I have been working with students with visual impairments for almost 40 years now. For most of that time, I was a teacher and an outreach teacher-trainer at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Millie, what can professionals do to help parents teach their child to be better communicators?
Teachers of the visually impaired can do some really, really important things to help parents. The first thing I would suggest that teachers of the visually impaired take on as a primary responsibility is to work collaboratively with parents and speech-language pathologists and speech teachers who are part of early intervention teams and who are part of IEP teams at schools. Teachers of the visually impaired need to remember that speech teachers and speech-language pathologists may never have worked with a student who has a visual impairment, and they may never have worked especially with a student who has a visual and multiple impairment. So there’s basic, fundamental information about the communication needs of children with visual and multiple impairments that teachers of the visually impaired have to take on as their responsibility to share with these members of the professional team. Luckily for teachers of the visually impaired, there are wonderful resources out there. So a big, very, very powerful thing that can happen at the very beginning of the intervention for a child with communication needs who has visual and multiple impairments is to make speech-language pathologists and speech teachers aware of these resources.
Just to mention five that can have a huge impact that I would want any speech-language pathologist or speech teacher to be aware of who was serving my child, would be the communication methods, intervention methods of Jan Van Dyke, and these are frequently just referred to as Van Dyke Techniques. These techniques start at the very beginning. So if a child is at the stage of development when they’re just needing to make that initial social bond between themselves and another person, and if they’re at that stage of development where the primary goal is for that child to learn that they can impact somebody else’s behavior with their own behavior—in other words, they can send a message—the “Van Dyke Techniques of Resonance Games,” for instance, are a fundamental tool for developing those skills in children who have visual and multiple impairments that speech-language pathologists and speech teachers may never hear about if they don’t hear about it from a teacher of the visually impaired. And parents may never hear about it if they don’t hear about it from a teacher of the visually impaired.
In addition to Van Dyke Techniques, there are all of the wonderful strategies that are the non-verbal communications strategies that are described in the INSITE Program from Ski Hi Institute. I would want TVIs to be making those strategies available to speech teachers and parents.
There’s also a guide for speech-language pathologists from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The author is Maria Muñoz, and it’s a very short little pamphlet that was written especially for speech teachers who may find themselves serving a child with visual or multiple impairments for the first time.
There’s the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide, and that’s a handbook for teachers and parents of students with visual and multiple disabilities, and it is a gold mine. It has a section—a language and communications section in it—that’s full of specific objectives and activities designed to teach those objectives. It also has a section of basic information about things that are unique to the language development of children with visual and multiple impairments like echolalia, pronoun difficulties, and things like that. It’s a great resource.
And finally, there is in production now and will be available soon, a product from the American Printing House for the Blind called SAM. SAM is an acronym. The title of this product is “Symbols and Meaning.” It is an intervention tool designed to build basic communication concepts built on touch experience for those children who are trying to develop the very beginning symbolic building blocks of communication.
So, TVIs can make parents and other members of the instructional teams aware of these wonderful strategies and resources that are incredibly effective tools at building communications skills in children with visual and multiple impairments.
The third thing I would want TVIs to do is model and coach. Don’t just make speech teachers and parents aware of these resources. Use them with parents and speech teachers. Develop the activities and model and coach parents and speech teachers and other members of the instructional team to implement these strategies on a daily basis.