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Spring/ Summer 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Compiled by Jean Robinson, Family Specialist, TSBVI Outreach

Abstract: Parents share the results of participating in a hands-on workshop with their children who have visual and multiple impairments. Participants learned new ways to communicate tactually with their child.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, parent workshop, tactile communication, Barbara Miles, visual and multiple impairments, infant massage, BART, bonding and relation techniques, deafblind, visual impairment

This year TSBVI Outreach had the pleasure of sponsoring two weekend workshops for families to learn new ways to communicate with their children through observation and touch. The common factor in these families was that their children were non-verbal. The first training focused on children who are deafblind, many of whom were mobile. The second training consisted of many children who were non-ambulatory. Each family invited one member of their educational team to participate with them.

The primary workshop presenter was Barbara Miles, author of Talking the Language of the Hands to the Hands (1999), and co-editor with Marianne Riggio of Remarkable Conversations: A guide to developing meaningful communication with children and young adults who are deafblind (1999). She spoke about the development of hand skills in children who have sensory impairments and the significance of hands for both receptive and expressive communication. After hearing about theory and intervention strategies for developing the tactual sense, participants had the opportunity to try these strategies. First they were able to practice with children other than their own—which gave them a chance to really get to know each other and facilitated their learning—and then to connect with their own children.”

Gigi Newton and Stacy Shafer, Outreach Specialists in Early Childhood and Deafblindness as well as certified Infant Massage instructors, shared information on B.A.R.T. (Bonding And Relaxation Techniques) and its benefits to children with sensory impairments. Experience and research has shown physical, psychological and emotional benefits to both the parent and child. Each family met individually with Outreach specialists trained in B.A.R.T. to discuss their primary concerns related to their child. Parents then had the opportunity to learn and practice specific massage strokes with their children.

These workshops made such an impact on these families that I want to share some of their comments.

Tammy from Lufkin

After attending this incredible workshop I came away with a completely different perspective of my son’s world. The workshop was presented in a relaxed, loving environment that really facilitated learning. Being able to listen in the classroom, practice the strategies with our own child and then observe all the children on videotape was so powerful. I am still learning and allowing Jonathan to teach me more.

The stories that were shared about children who are born blind really touched my heart. One girl first discovered that she was different about the age of seven when she asked her teacher to look at her new barrette. Her teacher had to touch the barrette on the girl’s head before the girl knew that her teacher had “seen” it. It truly pointed out to me, the significance of touch to a child with a visual impairment.

I now look at my hands differently. I suppose that I have taken them for granted. When we were asked as a group to say what kinds of things we used our hands for—things like typing, writing, cooking, driving, putting on makeup, etc.—it was pointed out that we mainly use our hands as tools to do things for ourselves. Then it was explained that people with blindness or a visual impairment use their hands as an organ—like eyes—and grabbing their hands to touch something would be the same as poking someone in the eye to make them “look” at an object.

I have a completely new appreciation of hands as tools, eyes, and ears. I look at my son in a different light. Now I am really paying attention to how I help Jonathan use his hands to “see” things. This training has helped me to be a better mom and teacher by opening my eyes to new ways of showing Jonathan the world around him.

Naomi from Houston

The Power of Touch weekend was an amazing experience for my child and our family. My husband and I have noticed that Michael has been able to have a bowel movement easier since we have started the massage strokes that were taught to us that weekend. It’s an awesome feeling when your child can have a bowel movement without struggling. Thanks Gigi!!!”

I especially cherish the times when Michael and I just sit there and touch each other’s hands. It is bonding time that I will forever enjoy sharing with him. It has helped me to understand how he feels at the moment. I feel we have connected so much more since we have come back home. I will strive to open up my son’s world by letting him explore his surroundings more. This will be a fulfilling experience for the both of us.

Other parents have shared that this training was the pivotal point in their lives in finally understanding how their children interpret the world and learn. It made an incredible difference in the techniques used both at home and at school to make the world meaningful to the child. If you are interested in this type of training, please share this information with your educational team and contact Outreach here at TSBVI.