A Bit About Communication

Topic and Concept Development — or what we communicate about and why

All communication is based on a form or forms (or, how we communicate) – Forms are the way we give information and receive information. Examples of forms are things like: spoken language and vocalizations, pictures, written words, touch cues, line drawings, etc.

Communicative Functions (or why we communicate) – Functions can be things like: sharing information, making a request, or asking a question.

Avoid empty forms:

    • Imagine having limited vision, and hearing, along with limited mobility. If our students are unable to see or interact with a whole cow or bus these miniatures can have no meaning and be too abstract – an empty form.
    • If the student has no concrete experiences with cows and has no concept of cow-ness they will not see a miniature cow as a representational form, and have no reason to talk about it – no function.
    • Instead try to use something that the student will actually interact with (and be interested in).
    • Tie language to activities a student is already doing to avoid empty forms.

From Our Student’s Perspective

What we (typical functioning adults) need vs. what our kids (with sensory and cognitive impairments) need.

We tend to insert our students into our forms, functions, and experiences for which they may have no point of reference, and therefore no structure on which to hang language, or build concepts. When we try to fit our kids into our perception of the world without giving thought to how they perceive the world we are working from our context instead of theirs. We need to think about our kids’ perception and previous concrete experiences when interacting. It is important to find context for what makes sense to the particular child in order to build concepts, teach literacy skills, and promote social interaction with others.

Videos: A Bit About Communication

Daily Calendar: Matt Draws with Sarah

TVI Matt Schultz explains how a daily calendar works with Sarah, a student who is deafblind.


Book Conversation: Teacher of the Deafblind Robbie Blaha has a book conversation with Tania, a student who is deafblind.



Developing Concepts with Children Who Are Deaf-Blind, Barbara Miles and Barbara McLetchie, February 2008 (National Center on Deaf-Blindness)

For Professionals:  Communication, Oregon Deafblind Project