By Kristy Duckels
It is believed that communication starts as early as in the womb for infants. It is also believed that direct talk at the infant in the womb can be extremely beneficial for an infant’s language development. The importance of communication continues throughout an infant’s life. An infant, as well as a child, must be able to link words, objects and the concepts of the words in order to make it meaningful. In order for this to happen, babies must be provided descriptions of what objects are and how they are used. It is never too early to begin this type of communication.
Communication fosters more than just language. Children with vision impairments must be taught how to play. This can adversely affect language development. Ferguson and Buultjens warn that, “play, particularly involving imitation, is crucial for communication and that in normal infants the experiences that develop from play constitute a necessary framework for language to emerge” (1995). However, children with vision impairments may not be provided essential description of object and environments that can foster imaginative play which is critical in a child’s language development. Further, opportunites to explore their environment can encourage interest in play. Ferguson and Buultjens explain that, “effective language development was not a matter of teaching words but of providing experiences which demand speech. To Froebel it was the experience clarified by language which constituted the growth of intelligence.” (1995) Therefore, there appears to be a relation between communication skills and independence and awareness later in life. For a child with a vision impairment,expressive and receptive language must be paired with actual experiences that the child has had in order for the concept to be meaningful and for communication and learning to occur. Many times parents of children with a visual impairment feel defeated when it comes to language and communication with their child. They believe their child can’t see the expressions on their face or learn to turn-take in conversation. Many experts believe this is an important skill in a young child’s ability to communicate requiring descriptive and exaggerated communication. “When your baby is visually impaired, you need to talk more. Your words must substitute for what cannot be seen” (Ferrell, 2011, p. 153).
As early intervention providers one must remember how important communication is to a young child with a vision impairment. “Enhancing the early communication of young children with vision impairments and additional disabilities need to be the primary focus of all early intervention programs. Because young children discover the power of communication through daily interactions with family members, early interventionists need to work with families to develop and implement methods and strategies for communication that fit a family’s routine and culture (Chen, 2014, p. 456). Early intervention providers must work with families on naturally communicating with their child during their natural routines being descriptive and exaggerated with their speech. They must encourage and teach families to allow their child with a vision impairment to explore and experience many opportunities. “Communication takes place through the development of turn-taking and purposeful communication within the context of naturally-occurring home routines such as feeding, bathing, playing and going to bed (Lueck, Chen, Kekelis, & Hartmann, 2008, p. 74). As early interventionist, “Through careful observation of the individual child; thoughtful analysis of the activities and routines of the child’s and family’s daily life; sensitive attention to the family’s culture, preference, and habits; and collaboration with the child’s family members, the early interventionist can powerfully advance a child’s development through promoting his or her ability to communicate and thus to engage in growth and learning in language and developing early literacy skills” (Chen, 2014, p. 456). Communication is a powerful tool and as early interventionist we need to teach, promote, foster and work with families on these skills through daily routines and play to allow the child the opportunity to explore and understand their world.
Chen, D. (2014). Essential Elements in Early Intervention: Visual impairment and multiple disabilities. New York: AFB Press.
Ferguson, R. & Duultjens, M. (1995). The play behavior of young blind children and its relationship to developmental stages. British Journal of Visual Impairment, 13, 100-106.
Ferrell, K. (2011). Reach Out and Teach: Helping your child who is visually impaired learn and grow. New York: AFB Press.
Lueck, A., Chen, D., Kekelis, L., & Hartmann, E. (2008). Developmental Guidelines for Infants with Visual Impairments. American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.