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Activity D: Observation of Language Development - Instructor Guidelines

The purpose of this activity is for participants to observe and analyze the language of a young child with a visual impairment.

Time needed. 10 minutes to explain assignment


  1. Participants should identify a child who is younger than 36 months with a visual impairment who has a vocabulary of at least 25 words.
  2. Provide the participants with the following options for locating a child: (a) obtain contact information from your instructor, (b) contact a family known to you, (c) post a request on a relevant listserv, or (d) contact a program for children with visual impairments.
  3. Review the importance of confidentiality and family-centered practices.
  4. Participants should make phone or e-mail contact to secure verbal agreement. Prior to the observation, make sure that participants secure written permission from the child’s caregivers to observe the child. Have participants use the attached permission form as a model for their own permission form.
  5. Have participants observe the child in a familiar setting interacting with one to two   familiar people.
  6. Participants should script at least 15 minutes of the interaction of all speakers during the observation. The scripted notes should be typed within 24 hours of the observation.
  7. Have participants review their transcripts to look for patterns. The questions below should be addressed in a two to five page reflection paper. Remind the participants to maintain confidentiality by using pseudonyms or initials for the child. The reflection paper should also describe the setting, including participants, location, time of day, and types of activities observed. The observation notes and typed transcripts should be submitted along with the reflection paper.


  1. Who initiated most communication?
  2. How many and what percentage of the communicative interactions did the child initiate? Give examples.
  3. How many and what percentage of the child’s communications were questions? Give examples.
  4. How many and what percentage of the child’s communications were statements? Give examples.
  5. How many and what percentage of the partner’s communications were questions? Give examples.
  6. How many and what percentage of the partner’s communications were statements? Give examples.
  7. How often did the child use imitation or repetition rather than an original communication? Provide examples.
  8. Were the communication topics present in the environment or were they imaginary or remembered topics?
  9. What strengths did the child demonstrate in communicating? Provide examples.
  10. What difficulties did the child experience in communicating?
  11. What was the most interesting thing you observed?
  12. What positive interactions did you observe?
  13. How would you have communicated with this child?
  14. What recommendations would you make to promote this child’s communication development?

Sample Permission Form

Name of child: ______________________

Name of caregiver: _____________________

Date: ____________

I, __________________, give my permission for _________________ to observe my child, _________________. I understand that this observation is for learning purposes only and will not be used for research or recommendations for intervention. Information will be kept confidential and pseudonyms will be used in the observer’s descriptions.

Caregiver’s signature: _____________________

Date: ____________