For a Deeper Dive

We are sharing some articles and other resources which we hope will be helpful as you explore this topic.  We have chosen those articles where we are able to provide full access. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.  If you have other ideas of items to include here, please email


Papers from Paul Hart

Hart P. (2010). Beyond the Common Touch Point: Communication Journeys with Congenitally Deaf-Blind People.  Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness, 3, 160–166.  (Shared with the permission of AERBVI).

This article explores attitudes and approaches that should influence our practice when developing communication and language in partnership with congenitally deaf-blind people. It focuses on the notion that it is always at the meeting place between individuals that solutions to communication breakdowns must be sought. This sets three challenges for communication partners: recognize the potential of the other, think of congenital deaf-blindness as a positive state, and step into relation with deaf-blind people.

Hart, P. & Rødbroe, I. (2010).  Dialogicality in Culture: Response from the Perspective of Congenital Deafblindness. The Magic of Dialogue, Suresnes, Paris. June 22nd, 2010.

Paul Hart and Inge Rødbroe discuss the impact of culture on the the development of individuals who are deafblind.

Hart, P. (2007). Happiness Is the Key to Success – But What Is Success? Health, Wealth or Wisdom? 14th Deafblind International World Conference. Perth, Australia, 29th September 2007.

In this transcript of a presentation made and the 207 DbI Conference in Perth, Paul explores what is meant by happiness and success in today’s world using the humanitarian Albert Schweitzer and ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, as his main guides  to ask what is a quality life and what are its necessary elements? What are the essential elements that might make us happy? What is the power of connections that exist between people and how do these shape our identities and reveal our authentic selves? Paul draws upon ideas from writers in the field of disability, developmental psychologists and in particular the philosopher Martin Buber. This allows  a conclusion that ‘stepping into relation’ with others helps reveal our true selves.

Hart, P. (2010). Moving Beyond the Common Touchpoint: Discovering Language with Congenitally Deafblind People. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Dundee (Scotland).

Paul Hart’s doctorial thesis is about partnerships involving congenitally deafblind people journeying towards language. The focus is on the first steps of that journey: how partnerships make initial moves away from the here-and-now. In order to understand how this happens in the tactile medium, this thesis draws on Reddy’s model (2003 and 2008) of the expanding awareness of the objects of the other’s attention to analyze how both partners are able to share attention to self, what self does, what self perceives and finally what self remembers.

Hart, P. (2015). Pursuing Happiness through Trust, Relationships and Communication. DbI Review, July 2015, 20-24.

This article discusses transforming lives through trust, relationships and communication. In it Paul discusses the need to choose  to see the miracle of difference because difference gives us the opportunity to listen to new stories, to belong to more groups, to make more connections, and doing so we become richer human beings. Our full capacities as individual inhabitants of this planet get fully revealed, and in this process we can further strive for happiness.

Hart, P. (2003). The Role of a Partner in Communication Episodes with a Deafblind Person. DbI Review, Jan.-Jun. 2003, 4-7.

This review explores the importance of viewing the development of deafblind children from a social constructivist perspective, but aims also to explore what this might suggest for relationships that exist between deafblind people and their communication partners. Vygotsky (1999) described the Zone of Proximal Development as the distance between the actual and potential developmental levels of children. This gap is bridged with the help of more competent others. There social relationships are the contexts in which knowledge is formed.

Hart, P. (2006) Using Imitation with Congenitally Deafblind Adults: Establishing Meaningful Communication Partnerships. Infant and Child Development. 15: 263–274 (2006).  (Limited access)

All congenitally deafblind people are potential communication partners. How can we help them achieve that potential? Imitation offers a particularly powerful means of doing so because it allows both partners to occupy a joint dyadic space, where the process of repairing the damaged communication partnerships that many deafblind people have been forced to function within throughout their lives can begin. This article provides a brief history of deafblind education over the last 150 years in order to provide a general account of changes in practice and theory and corresponding impacts on interventions. It goes on to describe some of the difficulties that congenitally deafblind people face in making contact with and being understood by other people before drawing on both practical examples and theoretical accounts on neonatal imitation to examine four key functions that imitation plays in facilitating communicative exchanges between deafblind individuals and their partners: it attracts attention, it stimulates turn-taking, it allows partners to recognize each other and it reveals the other as ‘just like me’. The article concludes that imitation is simply the starting place for a journey towards a ‘natural’ language and  is the same for congenitally deafblind people as it is for all infants: a companion space where imitation acts a powerful and immediate source of feedback about your value as a fellow human being.

Webinars from DbI

Webinar on Tactile Communication and different hand positions

In November 2022 the DbI Communication Network hosted a webinar on Tactile Communication and the Use of Different Hand Positions. Included 
the webinar, are practical activities to guide the use of different hand positions during interactions with an individual who is deafblind. The webinar was inspired by the work of Barbara Miles and Michael Cyrus. It was presented by Helle Buelund Selling, member of the Nordic Network on Tactile Language and
Development and consultant at the Center for Deafblindness and Hearing Loss in Aalborg, Denmark.

About Vygotsky’s Theories, 2021. Social Developmental Theory (Lev Vygotsky).

McLeod, Saul, 2018. Lev Vygotsky. Simply Psychology website,

Comparison of the differential theories of Jena Piaget and Lev Vogotsky.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction Between Learning and Development. In Gauvain & Cole (Eds.) Readings on the Development of Children. New York: Scientific American Books. pp. 34-40.

This article discusses some of the theories of development and introduces Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.

Communication and Congenital Deafblindness Series

Covers of Congenital Deafblindness seriesThis series by Inger Redbroe and Marleen Janssen consists of four booklets that are written to support and inspire individuals and teams that work with people who are deafblind. A companion DVD is included with each booklet to illustrate major concepts. The booklets are based on the work of Deafblind International’s Communication Network. The four booklets are:

    1. Congenital Deafblindness and the Core Principles of Intervention
    2. Contact and Social Interaction
    3. Meaning Making
    4. Transition to Cultural Language

Culture and Learning

Trevarthen, C. (1998) The child’s need to learn a culture. In M. Woodhead, D. Faulkner and K. Littleton, eds, Cultural worlds of early childhood, pp. 87–100. New York, Routledge.

This article discusses the innate need that children have to live and learn in culture, as fish swim in the sea and birds fly in the air, not to the acquired or cultivated need of the scholar to describe and explain about culture.  Being part of culture is a need human beings are born with — culture, whatever its contents, is a natural function. The essential motivation is one that strives to comprehend the world by sharing experiences and purposes with other minds, and that makes evaluations of reality, an active negotiation of creative imaginings that are valued for their human-made unreality.

Bodily-Tactile Perception and Learning

Bloeming-Wolbrink, K. A., Janssen, M., Ruijssenaars, W. A. J. J. M., & Riksen-Walraven, J. M. (2018). Effects of an Intervention Program on Interaction and Communication in Adults with Congenital Deafblindness and an Intellectual Disability. Journal of Deafblind Studies on Communication, 4(1), 39-66.

Interaction with people with congenital deafblindness (CDB) and an intellectual disability and recognition of their often unconventional expressions, is complex. In this study, the effects of a two-phase intervention program intended to foster harmonious interaction and the use and recognition of expressions based on a bodily emotional trace
(BET) were examined.

Daelman, M., Janssen, M. ,   Larsen, A.,  Nafstad, A. , Rødbroe, I. , Souriau, J.2007.  Report – International Course on Communication and Congenital Deafblindness. Nordic Staff Training Centre for Deafblind Services (NUD) for DbI’s Network on Communication and Congenitally Deafblind Persons 2007 Slotsgade 8 DK-9330 Dronninglund Denmark.

This report is from the Communication Network of DbI. It includes an Introduction to Deafblindness by Jacques Souriau as well as a transcript of a lecture, Co-creating communication with persons with congenital Deafblindness” by Anne Nafstad & Inger Rødbroe.

Deasy, K.  and  Lyddy, F. 2006. Embodied Cognition and the Development of Language for Individuals who are Congenitally Deafblind, DbI Review • JULY – DECEMBER 2006. Deafblind International 50 Main St, Paris, ON N3L 2E2 Canada.

Individuals who are congenitally deafblind are presented with significant
challenges when attempting to acquire language and communication skills. Since most of the information perceived is gained through direct bodily contact, cognitive processes necessary for language development remain closely connected to the body’s interaction with the environment. The embodied cognition approach, with its focus on specific body-environment interactions, may offer some insights into the way individuals who are congenitally deafblind develop language.

Miles, Barbara, 2003. Talking the Language of the Hands to the Hands. National Center on Deaf-Blindness, Helen Keller National Center
141 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, NY 11050.

This article discusses the importance of touch and hands in children who are deafblind. On this webpage you can also find a companion article Research into Practice: Talking the Language of the Hands to the Hands summarized by: Barbara Miles, Emma Nelson, and René Pellerin published by the University of Vermont.

Nicholas, J. T. ,  Johannessen, A. M., and van Nunen, T. 2019. Tactile Working Memory Scale. Nordic Welfare Centre, Sweden., Phone: +46 8 545 536 00

Working memory, or the ability to keep something in mind for a limited amount of time is a central function in cognition. For persons with congenital deafblindness we need a bodily-tactile perspective on working memory. This manual gives a theoretical overview and presents a scale that can be used by professionals to identify and assess tactile working memory in persons with deafblindness, and design tools and strategies to ensure that these persons can develop and make use of all their potentials, both cognitively and linguistically.

Schou Kirsten Costain, Gullvik, Torill and  Forsgren, Gøran. The importance of the bodily-tactile modality for students with congenital deafblindness who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

The study of the bodily tactile contribution to language development in students with congenital deafblindness (CDB) is an emerging field (Dammeyer & Nielsen, 2013). In work with these students, the bodily-tactile modality is essential for the development of understanding, conceptual learning and cognitive abilities. This article looks at this topic and how the teachers at Statped School for the Congenitally Deafblind, Skådalen, Oslo, Norway facilitate the construction of individual and adapted solutions to these challenges with a central focus on the tactile modality, including the use of tactile reference symbols and the tactilization of signs.

Arnfinn Muruvik Vonen, Bettina Kastrup Pedersen, Camilla Foote, Caroline Lindström, Emmi Tuomi, Grete A. Steigen, Gøran Andreas Gregor Caspian Forsgren, Helle Buelund Selling, Jenny Näslund, Joseph Gibson, Jude Nicholas, Kari Schjøll Brede, Kirsten Costain, Nedelina Ivanova, Ritta Lahtinen, Rolf Mjønes, Sofi Malmgren (2019). If You Can See It, You Can Support It: a book about tactile language.  Nordic Welfare Centre, Stockholm, Sweden. 

This 172-page book is available for download online.

When we add a linguistic value to bodily tactile expressions and recognize tactile languages as natural languages, we are able to communicate linguistically with people with congenital deafblindness.

From the motto, ” if you can see it, you can support it”, this book gives an idea of how communication partners can spot and read utterances in the bodily tactile modality as language. It shows how the partner can respond to the tactile speech and support the language development by using different cognitive strategies in the conversations to activate both the tactile work memory and the tactile autobiographical memory.

Withagen, A., Heins, L. et al. (2010).  In Touch: Helping your blind child discover the world.  Royal Dutch Visio, Centre of Expertise for blind and partially sighted people, Huizen (Netherlands).

This 152-page document explores perception through touch.  Designed for parents, it is a rich resource of ideas and activities to stimulate tactile development.  While it focuses on the needs of children with visual impairments, many ideas can easily be adapted for children who are deafblind.

Brain Development

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Children’s Emotional Development Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains: Working Paper No. 2. © 2004, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

A growing body of scientific evidence tells us that emotional development begins early in life, that it is a critical aspect of the development of overall brain architecture, and that it has enormous consequences over the course of a lifetime. These findings have far-reaching implications for policymakers and parents, and, therefore, demand our attention.

Stress and Resiliency

Dr. Allan Schore on resiliency and the balance of rupture and repair.

Mirror Neurons

Dr. Dan Siegel explains mirror neurons.

Interaction Coaching

Van den Tillaart, B. (2001). Model-based Support to Improve the Quality of Interaction. Paper presented at the Deafblind International 5th European Conference on Deafblindness, Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands.
This paper describes the Deafblind Interaction Program developed by Bernadette van den Tillaart. The program includes training and coaching. The program is based on the Interaction Model (van den Tillaart, 1999) and Video Interaction Analysis. First, interaction partners become aware of the interaction patterns (including affirmation), interaction regulation, and meaningful expressions in their contact with persons who are deafblind. Next, they develop the competence needed to create sustained (tactile) reciprocal interactions and communication. Research studies evidenced the positive effects of the Deafblind Interaction Program. For additional information contact   or +1 740-572-1883.

Janssen, M., Riksen-Walraven, J. M. and  van Dijk, J. P. M. 2006. Applying the Diagnostic Intervention Model for Fostering Harmonious Interactions Between Deaf-Blind Children and Their
Educators: A Case Study. Journal of Visual Impairment, February 2006 • Volume 100 • Number 2, American Foundation  for the Blind.

This article demonstrates the use of the Diagnostic Intervention Model in everyday practice and the effects of its application in a case study of Kris and his educator using individual coaching. The implications of the case for everyday practice are discussed.