Authors: Ann Adkins, VI Education Specialist, Outreach Program, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)
Keywords: communication, social skills, writing skills, collaboration, tactile symbols, social stories, collaborative writing, empowerment, self-determination, relationships, play, collaborative writing
Listen to the Article
Kate Borg, Director of the TSBVI Outreach Program
Kate said that she had a difficult time choosing a “favorite” Hagood work, citing several that were especially meaningful to her: “Conversations Without Language”, Better Together, and Playing with Words. Readers will discover that these are also mentioned by others in this article, but Kate wanted to emphasize Hagood’s contributions about collaborative writing:
Mark Twain said, “Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.” Linda not only understood this concept—she championed it. Writing CAN be Child’s Play, on the Paths to Literacy website, is an important article. All students need the opportunity to create as part of their literacy programs, but for some students, we need to think of creative ways for them to tell their stories. After reading this article, I implemented collaborative writing as play in my classroom, and it was extraordinary! Our students all have stories, and they all deserve the opportunity to tell them. Thank you, Linda, for teaching us how to help them do that.
Debra Sewell, TSBVI Curriculum Director
Linda Hagood was an amazing and highly respected educator who believed in the abilities of both students and the adults who work with them. She provided us with many pathways for teaching effective communication strategies for students with visual and multiple impairments. We are grateful for her creative role in developing the tactual symbol system used at TSBVI, as well as developing practical strategies for creating environments in which all children can communicate. It was my great honor to work with Linda when she was writing Better Together: Building Relationships With People Who Have Visual Impairment & Autism Spectrum Disorder (or Atypical Social Development) (TSBVI, 2008). In chapter one of this book, she states: “The goal of this manual is to provide practical suggestions for teachers and parents who want to build important foundational relationships and teach social skills to children with visual impairment and autism or other types of atypical social development.” To me, that sums up what Linda devoted her life to—encouraging us to build the social connections that are the essential building blocks for forming and sustaining relationships with others. She will be missed for her brilliance and her kindness.
Cyral Miller, Education Specialist with the TSBVI Outreach Program
Cyril mentioned several of Hagood’s articles in our cover story, “Remembering Linda Hagood.” Here, she adds the importance of the Playing with Words section on the Paths to Literacy website. Playing with Words is a collaborative approach to play-based storytelling with students who are blind or visually impaired, including those who have additional disabilities, autism, or deafblindness. Cyral also likes A Standard Tactile Symbol System: Graphic Language for Individuals who are Blind and Unable to Learn Braille, created by Linda Hagood and the TSBVI Life Skills Department.
Sara Kitchen, VI Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
Sara talked about the importance of Linda Hagood in our cover story and emphasized how Linda not only empowered students but how she also helped them create positive self-images. Hagood also served as an inspiring mentor to her fellow teachers. Sara’s favorite Hagood article, although she mentioned that it was difficult to choose just one, is Conversations without Language: Building Quality Interactions with Children Who are Deaf-Blind (PDF) which describes Dr. Jan van Dijk’s approach to language development and communication skills for students who are deafblind.
Suzanne Becker, TSBVI Digital Archivist and Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
I feel blessed for working alongside Linda during her time at TSBVI. In 2005, Linda was the speech language support for my classroom of students whose literacy was individualized real objects. When Linda returned to TSBVI in 2011, we were on the same team as she taught a class of super-active adolescent boys. These past few years, we communicated as I archived a fraction of her work in her collaborations with TSBVI. Linda’s impact was, and is, deeply felt.
Ann Adkins, VI Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
My first awareness of Hagood was when I discovered Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments (TSBVI, 1997). As a TVI whose primary experience had been with relatively academic, high-school-aged students, I felt completely unprepared when I had my first student who was echolalic and had little meaningful language. This book not only opened my eyes, but I know that it made me a better teacher. Even though this book was published in 1997, I know that it continues to be a valuable resource for teachers and families. I also love all the social skills information and suggestions in Better Together: Building Relationships with People Who Have Visual Impairment & Autism Spectrum Disorder (or Atypical Social Development) and feel honored to have been able to see Hagood present at conferences on the importance of social stories.
Adam Graves, Deafblind Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
Adam has written a separate article for this issue of TX SenseAbilities about the impact of Hagood on education for students with deafblindness. “Learning from Linda,” in the Effective Practices section of this issue, describes how one of his favorite chapters in Better Together impacted him as a practitioner and a consultant. Adam’s article talks about “finding the smile” and the importance of positive, affirming relationships with our students. He says that he often shares this information with educational teams and families.
Chris Montgomery, Deafblind Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
When I was starting as a teacher at TSBVI, I taught in a self-contained class with emerging language students who were deafblind. I was often overwhelmed and trying to keep things together for my kids. It seemed as if there was so much to juggle and keep track of. I had a fantastic team around me that offered support and endless amounts of patience. I was okay with the “how’s” of building lessons, but I often found myself a bit lost on the reasons for “why” we were doing certain things.
It wasn’t very long until some kind soul introduced me to Linda’s book called Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments (TSBVI, 1997). I just called it “The Blue Communication Book.” It was the one book that was always open on my desk. It was so important to me then, and I still recommend it to people today.
Sometime later during that first year as a teacher, I was able to meet Linda. I remember being a bit awestruck because writing such a powerful book seemed like such an impossible thing to me at that time—it still does! Linda ended up being completely down to earth and had a fantastic laugh. I connected with her because she was always, always, always interested in what I was doing and would help me process any question, no matter how odd or poorly informed. Over the years, I’ve read and reread most of her other writing. However, it’s those first conversations with her, when she showed such interest in the new guy and gave me such positive affirmation, that I hold most dear. It was an important lesson in giving and sharing that I am always grateful for.
Charlotte Cushman, former Education Specialist with the TSBVI Outreach Program and Perkins School for the Blind
Charlotte is the creative force behind the Paths to Literacy website. In our cover story, “Remembering Linda Hagood,” Charlotte shared some of her thoughts on Hagood’s many contributions to our field and invited readers to explore her innovative approach to writing with students with multiple disabilities, including those with deafblindness or on the Autism Spectrum. Charlotte’s own tribute to Linda is on Paths to Literacy: Play-Based Writing with Students with Multiple Disabilities or Autism: A Tribute to Linda Hagood.
Linda emphasized the importance of beginning by building trust, engaging in shared experiences, joint attention, extended turn taking, anticipation, and welcoming the full range of communicative forms (objects, tactile symbols, print, braille, gestures, signs, speech). Playing with Words, which can be found on the Paths to Literacy website, is one of the many amazing contributions by Linda.
Hagood was also the author of many other articles on the Paths to Literacy site, and Charlotte encourages readers to examine these also:
- The Question of Symbol Standardization: An Invitation to Discussion (February 16, 2016)—a discussion of the history of the development of the TSBVI tangible symbol system as well as that of APH. It shares Linda’s concerns over the use of standardized symbols, her thoughts on the use of standardized tactile symbols during her teaching experiences, and her responses to questions from teachers.
- Writing Play-Based Experience Stories with Students with Multiple Disabilities (September 22, 2014)
- Playing with Words: Using Collaborative Storytelling to Engage in Difficult Conversations | Paths to Literacy (April 2, 2018)
- Using Yoga to Support Language and Literacy Development (April 25, 2018)
Please enjoy this video of Linda and students engaged in a Yoga Routine from 2008 when she was a Speech-Language Pathologist at TSBVI.
Paths to Literacy is not the only source for Linda’s works. Charlotte also mentions:
- What is an Instructional Routine? This article on seven characteristics of a good routine, was adapted by Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen from Hagood’s Communication book.
- Writing: The Forgotten Focus for Literacy and Communication Instruction (webcast) and Autism and Visual Impairment with Linda Hagood (podcast) from the Perkins School for the Blind.
Scott Baltisberter, VI Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
It’s really difficult for me to pick a favorite out of Linda’s many contributions. Tactile symbols, Better Together, social stories, Playing with Words…I continuously draw on all of these and more but can’t isolate any one thing that has contributed most to what I hope is my ongoing growth. It’s like there’s this huge nebula of wisdom, knowledge, kindness, and experience into which I can reach at any time and in any direction and am sure to pull out something that will guide me to the right path.
What comes most to mind, however, are my first years as a teacher in the Life Skills Department at TSBVI, when Linda was assigned as the SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist) for my classroom. Of all the support staff assigned to help me, the newbie, her impact was the greatest and most far-reaching. I don’t mean so much her technical assistance, though that was outstanding. It was more her presence and her manner, the calm and attentive way she listened and made suggestions; it was a way of being present that was knowledgeable and confident but was also curious, collaborative, and down to earth. I always felt she was holding both my students and myself within her nebula with honest care and affection. Over the years, I’ve tried to emulate Linda’s outlook and approach, though I don’t think that I’ve ever reached her level. So, if I have to pick something, I suppose that my favorite Linda Hagood product is Linda “Hagood-ness.”
As Kate Hurst said in our cover story, “…let us take joy in the times we have shared with her. Let us make use of the many things she taught us. Let us be as passionate and creative as she was in our work with children who are visually impaired and deafblind.” Let us also share her knowledge and expertise widely, and most of all, model and follow her love of all children.
Thank you, Linda Hagood!
Baltisberger, S. and Kitchen, S. (2017, September 26). What is an instructional routine? [Handout: Activity Routines Study Group: Meeting One: Planning a Routine]. Retrieved from TSBVI website: 74910151.pdf (tsbvi.edu)
Cushman, C. (2021). Play-based writing with students with multiple disabilities or autism: A tribute to Linda Hagood. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/play-based-writing-students-multiple-disabilities-or-autism-tribute-linda-hagood
Hagood, L (Host). (February 25, 2020). Autism and visual impairment with Linda Hagood [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://perkinsvision.podbean.com/e/autism-and-visual-impairment-with-linda-hagood/
Hagood, L. (2008). Better together: Building relationships with people who have visual impairment & autism spectrum disorder (or atypical social development). Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Hagood, L. (1997). Communication: A guide for teaching students with visual and multiple impairments. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Hagood, L. (n.d.). Conversations without language: Building quality interactions with children who are deaf-blind. Retrieved from https://www.tsbvi.edu/100-tools/1316-conversations-without-language-building-quality-interactions-with-children-who-are-deaf-blind
Hagood, L. (2018). Playing with words: Using collaborative storytelling to engage in difficult conversations. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/playing-words-using-collaborative-storytelling-engage-difficult-conversations
Hagood, L. (2016). The question of symbol standardization: An invitation to discussion. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/question-symbol-standardization-invitation-discussion
Hagood, L. (1992) A standard tactile symbol system: Graphic language for individuals who are blind and unable to learn braille. Retrieved from https://www.tsbvi.edu/203-resources/1315-standard-tactile-symbol-system
Hagood, L. (2018). Using yoga to support language and literacy development (April 25, 2018). Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/using-yoga-support-language-and-literacy-development
Hagood, L., Mogan, M., Hiller, J., Hurst, K., Miller, C., & Cushman, C. (2020). What is playing with words? Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/playing-words
Hagood, L. (n.d.). Writing CAN be child’s play: A collaborative writing program. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/writing-can-be-childs-play-collaborative-writing-program
Hagood, L. (2014). Writing play-based experience stories with students with multiple disabilities. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/play-based-experience-stories
Hagood, L. [n.d.]. Writing: The forgotten focus for literacy and communication instruction. [Webinar]. Perkins School for the Blind. https://www.perkinselearning.org/videos/webcast/writing-forgotten-focus-literacy-and-communication-instruction