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Early Communication Tutorial
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As soon as a child is born she becomes a communicator. Babies fuss when they are hungry, tired or need to be changed. They breathe slowly and evenly when they are relaxed and startle at sudden sounds. Babies coo and smile when they are happy. Very young children may scream and cry when they do not get what they want, when things they like are taken away, or when they want attention, or are bored, or have finished activities they love. At this state of life children are not yet using language, but are they communicating?

Yes they are!

Picture of a happy toddler lying in a ball pit

Teaching children to communicate

Developing a system to teach communication to children who are born without disabilities is not necessary. They learn language by watching and listening. Without formal teaching, they learn the meaning of body language and tone of voice. Children without disabilities learn the power that comes with being able to tell others what they want and need, as well as what they do not want. In these children, language develops as a result of incidental learning.

Conversely, incidental learning is not as likely to occur for children who are deafblind. These children have limited vision and hearing, the two senses used to obtain information that enables children to develop language. (Carnes,).

According to Linda Alsop from the SKI-HI Institute, "children who are born deafblind may be unaware that formal communication exists. They may not know that they can exert power over their environment with communication...They may express wants and needs through behaviors, but be unaware that their actions are being observed and interpreted by others. They may not be getting enough information to understand that they have caused something to happen" (Alsop, 2002).

Process for teaching communication

Although children who are deafblind are able to communicate basic comfort and discomfort, they are not able to access the information which allows them to learn language. They need the experiences that will open their world. Children who are deafblind need to have a communication partner that acknowledges what they do and who can teach them meaning. Children who are deafblind need to be taught a process that will allow them to make choices, talk about past and future events, have conversations with other people and be both expressive and receptive communicators.

ODB Home | Communication Home | 1. Communication Overview | 2. Assessment
3. Setting Goals | 4. Developing Activities | 5. Monitoring Progress | 6. Updating Program

Western Oregon University | The Research Institute | The Oregon Deafblind Project

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The Oregon Deafblind Project is funded through grant award # H326T130008, OSEP CFDA 84.326T, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), OSEP Project Officer: Susan Weigert.

However, the contents of this site does not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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