Building Security

First: watch, listen and wait

Teacher gently engages a young girl who is deafblind through touch.
Teacher gently engages a young girl who is deafblind through touch.

All humans have a basic need to feel safe. Without that feeling of security, life is incredibly stressful. Science shows that when people are stressed they do not learn as easily. So for children who are deafblind or visually and multiply impaired, we need to reduce stress and increase feelings of security and safety. Here is how we can do this:

    • Pace/Rhythm: each person has their own pace. Think about fast- paced people who may talk quickly, move quickly, or shift their attention quickly. There are also slow paced people who may talk more slowly, have low quiet voices, move slowly. What kind of pace does your student have?
    • Gauge emotional state: start interacting when the child is open to it.
    • Find out about what kinds of topics, sensory input, objects, people your student likes from others who know the child. We have created a Likes and Dislikes Form to help compile this information.  Download in Word or PDF format.

Find out what interests your student by interacting with them

See what the child does, but do not try to control the situation by “teaching” anything. This is the time when we are letting the student teach us about him or herself.

    • Offer objects without any expectation of what the child will do with the object.
    • Make your hands available with your hands open, your palms up.
    • Provide Inhibiting or Excitatory Sensory Input if necessary, or allow the child to regulate him/herself.
    • Together, create a unique greeting ritual out of something you both enjoy. This is something you will do whenever you greet the child so that they can get ready to interact with you. This will be different from what others do with the child. It may take several sessions of getting to know the child for this to naturally evolve.


Interaction and Bonding – Building Security

In this video, Outreach VI Consultant Sara Kitchen discusses strategies for helping to build security for the student.
Building Security – Offer objects

In this video, the teacher is offering the child items to explore. She makes a noise with the object to let him know it is there. She never controls his hands or shows him how to use the objects. She is finding out about what he does with objects.


Building Security – Make your hands available

This is a video of a mother and her child interacting. She is letting him explore her hands. Her hands are available to him and he is able to control what they do.

Building Security – Inhibiting (calming sensory input)

In this video, the child is being provided with input that is calming to most sensory systems, rocking. You can see by the end of the clip that she has nearly fallen asleep.

Building Security – Excitatory

In this video, the child is being provided with input that wakes up most sensory systems, vibration. You can see that she not only is awake, but is interested in having more of that massager on her arm.

Building Security – Greeting Ritual

In this video, the teacher sings a song to the child as she moves his hand. It is evident that, by the end of the song, the little boy is looking forward to his time with his teacher.


Bernadette van den Tillaart and Gunnar Vege, Tactile Reciprocal Interactions & BETs.

Matt Schultz and Kate Moss Hurst, 2021. Guidance for Planning Behavioral Intervention for Children and Youth who are Deafblind or Visually and Multiply Impaired, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired.

Suzanne Zeedyk, Co-founder of Connected Baby. Interview on the Texas Deafblind Project website.

Deafblind Interaction on Texas Deafblind Project website.