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Visual Impairments and Language Development


In the last few years, I have had more and more children on my caseload with significant vision issues.  They have some unique challenges when learning to communicate, and the research that I was able to find was scarce.  Here is some information on speech and language development from what I could find:



1. Imitation Skills: Much of how children learn language is through initiation.  Sighted babies will look at their parents and start imitating facial features.  Growing up, children will watch their parents and then re-enact it through play.  Children who are blind or have significant vision loss, don't have the same opportunities. And while children who are blind may imitate sounds earlier than others, they take longer to attach meaning to the sounds and later words because they are unable to see what their words are referencing.  As a result, many children who are blind become echolalic. They also require more direct teaching around vocabulary than their sighted peers.

2. Classification: Classification other than size, shape, and texture can be difficult to learn and often need to be explicitly taught. 

3.  Vocabulary: Children with visual impairments need to be taught that objects with different forms still are called one word.  For example, a fried egg, an egg in its shell and an egg that is broken are all eggs.

4. Multiple Meaning Words: These can be very challenging to learn and to generalize.

5. Non-Verbal Communication and Social Language Skills: Not being able to see how a person's behaviour effects others makes it challenging to learn social cues. They will not have access or adequate access to see or read facial expressions, and body language.  Incidental social learning does not happen as often as with children who do not have vision deficits. Skills such as how far away to be when talking, orienting your head and body towards a person you are talking with will need to be explicitly taught. 

5. Articulation delays:  Due to the lack or limited visual input, there is a higher probability that children with visual impairments will have articulation delays as compared to typically developing peers. 

While this isn't a lot of information,  it does and has provided a basis to start to provide therapy.  If you have any useful information, articles, etc... on this topic, I would love to hear from you.

Sources:
Brouwer, Kyle et al.,  (2013) SLP Services with Visual Impairments: A Qualitative Report of Practitioner Practices.  Presented at ASHA Convention. Found on ASHA's website.
Brouwer, Kyle et al., (2015) Speech Sound–Production Deficits in Children With Visual Impairment: A Preliminary Investigation of the Nature and Prevalence of Coexisting Conditions. Contemporary Issues In CommunicatIon Science and Disorders, Volume 42 (33-46).
http://www.tsbvi.edu/infants/3293-the-impact-of-visual-impairment-on-development
http://www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com/language-development.html
http://www.ssc.education.ed.ac.uk/courses/vi&multi/vnov10ii.html

Bringing children's lit into the therapy room for Earth Day

As you can tell, I LOVE to use books during speech and language therapy.  This week I thought I would talk about a couple of great books to use for Earth Day. As usual, this post does not contain affiliate links.  I just really like these books.  


1.  Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel.  A superhero called Michael Recycle come to a town and gets everyone in the town to start recycling. This book talks about why you should recycle and what you should recycle.  It is highly engaging and the kids seem to really enjoy it. Some of the children get thrown by the fact that Michael has eyelashes in the illustrations.  They are unsure if he is a boy or a girl.  It is a good opportunity to talk about who has eyelashes and I have children chart who does and doesn't have eyelashes. This book has lots of rhyming pairs, e.g. "glitter" and "litter."  It is also great for building vocabulary by using words such as "hazy," "rotten," and "colander" and contains a variety of verbs. It is also great for all sorts of categorization activities.  As well,  Michael Recycle uses lots of "L" and "R" blends for speech therapy. Michael Recycle meets Litterbug Doug is another fun book in the series.



2. Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland. This one has a slightly different focus but still fits nicely in an "Earth Day" theme. A big bear in the forest loves to give hugs, especially to trees, but what happens when the bear meets a logger looking to chop down some of the old trees? I have used this book to work on problem-solving and predicting.  What would the children do if they saw a logger going to chop down a tree that they loved?  The children and I talk about what is made from wood and ideas of conservation.  This again leads into a recycling discussion. 

In honour of Earth Day here is a little freebie. What are some of your favourite Earth Day books?

Using Songs in Therapy: "Ducks Like Rain"

When I'm in a preschool class, I sing ALL. THE. TIME.  The running joke is that we are professional singers even though we are not great singers by any means.  To name a few, we sing to teach new concepts, we sing during transitions, and we sing to help children calm down.  For more information on how I use music in therapy check out this older blog post. 



A teacher who I used to work with taught me one of my favourite songs, "Ducks Like Rain." It is perfect for spring or farm themes.  It's ideal for preschoolers, but kindergarten children also like it.  It works well one-on-one and in groups.  Children who are hard to engage frequently respond to this song.   As well, it's perfect for children who are just starting to talk, are using PECS,  or using other types of visual communication systems.

The only props you need for this song is a spray bottle full of water and any communication systems you may be using.  Click here for a copy of the lyrics.  How I use this is that I will sing most of the song and then pause when we get to the "quacks." I then wait until the child(ren) responds with "quack" and then I spray them with water.  Some kids don't like to get sprayed.  I then teach them to respond with a phrase such as "don't spray" which I then honor.  Here I am singing it for you.



If the children want to hear it again, then I wait for "sing again," or "more ducks" or some such response.  One reason I like this is that it doesn't take long to sing.  Many children sing or do the actions during the song, so they become active participants.  

Let me know how it goes if you try it out!