Importance of Environmental Sounds for a Student with Deafblindness
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Unlike who is deaf or hard of hearing child, the deafblind child’s vision loss interferes with the ability to visually identify sound sources and learn about them incidentally. As a result, students with deafblindness need extensive training from infancy to transition age to learn to detect, discriminate and identity environmental sounds. The continuum of purposeful movement in infancy and early childhood that progresses to independence in the community is often chiefly motivated by sound. It is imperative to preserve sustained access to sounds that are constant such as the dishwasher, the flow of traffic in the background, etc. An awareness, understanding, and ability to utilize this sensory information is essential for developing independence and safety. The child with deafblindness will need to be able detect, discriminate, and identify environmental sounds as well as speech. Once these skills have been developed, the child will need to learn application of the skills for safe and independent movement in their environment. For the deafblind child, noise is information.
Orientation and mobility is knowing where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. Orientation and Mobility services are based on the evaluations and program development done by a Certified Orientation and Mobility Instructor (COMS). Since access to environmental sounds is critical, even for infants and toddlers, it is important that personal amplification does not eliminate these sounds. This creates a dilemma for the fitting audiologist whose primary goal is typically to amplify speech. Consequently, the collaboration between the COMS, Audiologist, and the Teacher of Deaf and the Hard of Hearing is essential to ensure the child with deafblindness has access to these environmental sounds with amplification.