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    Exploring Language and Communication in an Individual with Congenital Deafblindness: A Case Study

    Deasy, Kathleen and Lyddy, Fiona (2006) Exploring Language and Communication in an Individual with Congenital Deafblindness: A Case Study. Technical Report. NCSE Special Education Research Initiative (SERI), Trim, Co. Meath.

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    The combined hearing and visual impairments associated with congenital deafblindness severely diminish access to information from the environment and impede opportunities for interaction and development of symbolic language. Congenital deafblindness involves the impairment of both vision and hearing to such an extent that an individual cannot function as someone who is deaf or as someone who is blind. The term congenital deafblindness covers a spectrum of combinations of varying degrees of vision and hearing loss. A total absence of vision and hearing lies at one end, while at the other end, residual vision or hearing, or some residual facility in both senses, is available. The degree of impairment varies within this population, which precludes generalising as regards successful remediation strategies. Concomitant physical or cognitive impairments will bring further challenges. People with congenital deafblindness who are able to use their residual sight or residual hearing are at a relative advantage, availing of communicative options that make use of the residual sense. Nonetheless, individuals who present with impairments within the spectrum of combined hearing and vision loss are at a great disadvantage when developing communication. Educational strategies for promoting communication and language in this population generally advocate an individualised approach (see McInnes and Treffrey, 1982; Van Dijk, 1986; Nafstad and Rødbroe, 1999; Chen and Downing, 2006). Many different strategies may be utilised when supporting language acquisition. Such methods involve the use of sign systems and tangible objects of references. Examples of sign systems are formal sign language, adaptive signs and natural gestures. Tangible objects of reference are those that are used to refer to other objects, people, places and activities. They can be concrete representations, for example a spoon used to refer to dinner time, or abstract representations, for example an arbitrary piece of fabric that is used to refer to a day of the week. Stereotypic behaviours are commonly observed in individuals who are deafblind. Idiosyncratic or stereotypic behaviours may appear unconstructive but could prove beneficial to developing communication. A type of echolalia (using signs instead of speech) and imitation rituals are sometimes exhibited by individuals who are deafblind, and may be significant in efforts to communicate for this population.

    Item Type: Monograph (Technical Report)
    Additional Information: This study was conducted as part of Kathleen Deasy’s doctoral research. We are greatly indebted to Amy*, her family, her school, her teachers and her support assistants, for facilitating the detailed observation involved in this research. Our often lengthy visits were accommodated, with great hospitality, over an extended period and, in addition, Amy’s family and teachers provided a wealth of supplementary information that greatly informed our interpretation of the data. We also thank the teachers for the deafblind who acted as coders in this study. We are grateful to the National Council for Special Education for funding this research. Responsibility for the research (including any errors or omissions) remains with the authors. The views and opinions contained in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Council. Correspondence may be directed to Kathleen by email to * The name ‘Amy’ is used throughout this paper and is not the real name of the girl involved in this study.
    Keywords: Exploring Language; Communication; Congenital Deafblindness; Case Study;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 2709
    Depositing User: Fiona Lyddy
    Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2011 08:17
    Publisher: NCSE Special Education Research Initiative (SERI)
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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