Tetn # 30913 Literacy for Students with Deafblindness


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TETN # 30913

Literacy for Students with Deafblindness

1:30-3:30 PM

Presented by

Holly Cooper, Deafblind Education Consultant



Jim Durkel, APH Coordinator


Literacy for Students with Deafblindness


National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness Practice Perspectives, August 2008

The Path to Symbolism

Miles, B. Literacy for Persons who are Deafblind


NCDB Outcomes and Performance Indicators: Literacy


McKenzie, A. (2007). Research in Literacy for Students Who Are Deafblind. Deafblind Perspectives, 14(2). Available: http://www.tr.wou.edu/tr/dbp/apr2007.htm#research

Emergent Literacy for Students Who Are Deafblind, Project Salute

National Association for the Education of Young Children and International Reading Association


Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children


Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonics

Ling Six Sound Check (Bionic Ear)


Ideas and Activities for Developing Early Phonological Awareness, Virginia Department of Education


Video on Visual Phonics, Hereford (Texas) Independent School District


Narr, R. A. F. (2006). Teaching phonological awareness with deaf and hard of hearing students. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(4). Available: http://www.rachelsbz.com/Friedman%20Narr%20(2006).pdf

Carlson, B. Blaha, R. (2007) Assessment of Deafblind Access to Manual Language Systems (ADAMLS). National Consortium on Deafblindness. Available: http://www.nationaldb.org/documents/products/ADAMLS.pdf

"Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear" in Cued Speech

Cued Speech chart

Califonia Deafblind Project Fact Sheet on Tadoma


Alternative Tactile Writing

McCall, S. (2009) Developing Literacy Though the Moon Code. Available:


Moon Literacy website


Tactile Books

Making Tactile Books


Detailed Description of Making a Tactile Book


The Tactile Book Advancement Group (TBAG)


Literacy for Students with Deafblindness

Holly Cooper, Ph.D. and Jim Durkel, CCC-SLP/A

Who Are Our Deafblind Students?

Vary widely in ability level and include students:

  • With severe and multiple disabilities without standard symbolic communication

  • Who use some sign language, speech, picture or object symbols

  • Who are functionally deaf and have low vision

  • Who are functionally blind and have some hearing loss

  • Who are both deaf and blind

  • Who are academic learners

In this presentation

We will try to touch on the needs of all types of students, but our primary focus is:

  • Students with significant sensory impairments

  • Students who unction at the kindergarten level or below

Students with Deafblindness in Texas

In Texas we have a total of:

  • 8196 students with visual impairments

  • 384 students who are read braille

  • 740 students on DB census

Who Are Our Deafblind Students?

APH VI registration reports about students who are deafblind or AI & VI:

  • Nonreaders 302
  • Pre Print 105

  • Print 127

  • Pre Braille 16

  • Braille 17

What Is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to:

  • Read

  • Write

  • Spell

  • Communicate through written language

  • Understand and use written word in daily activities at home, work, in the community

  • Use written prose, documents, and numbers

Learning to Read & Write

International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) position paper cautions against the “maturational” approach in which it is believed young children will learn to read when they’re ready.

Learning to Read & Write

  • Many children appear to spontaneously learn to read

  • Research shows outcome effected by differences in environment, parenting and teaching

Children with deafblindness have different life experiences due to sensory and language deficits that directly impact the learning of literacy.

Learning to Read & Write

5 Phases of Early Reading Skills Development according to the IRA and NAEYC position paper

1: awareness & exploration

2: experimental

3: early

4: transitional

5: independent & productive

Literacy for Students with Deafblindness

Literacy for Persons Who Are Deaf-Blind

Written by Barbara Miles

Why literacy?

Allows the individual with deafblindness:

  • to communicate more effectively with more people

  • to express thoughts and feelings

It enriches the lives of individuals because it allows them to:

  • Make choices

  • Express needs and feelings

  • Share experiences with others

Emergent Literacy

Many of our students with deafblindness are functioning at a level known as emergent literacy and may remain at this level for some time.

Some of the earliest skills young children acquire which lead to literacy include:

  • Awareness of literacy media in the environment

  • Awareness that literacy media convey meaning to people

  • Awareness of books and papers as items containing interesting information

Emergent literacy also includes:

  • Awareness that literacy media involves language

  • Awareness of stories

  • Awareness of books, writing and braille as a focus of enjoyable social experiences

In the phase of emergent literacy, language learning builds early literacy skills and early literacy skills build language.

National Report on Reading

  • Phonemic awareness

  • Phonics

  • Fluency

  • Vocabulary

  • Text comprehension

Phonological Awareness

Words are Made Of Sounds

  • Sound identification

  • Sound blending

  • Segmenting words into sounds

  • Sound manipulation

The Theory

  • Phonological awareness skills aid in decoding

  • Rapid decoding supports fluency and comprehension

  • At least some types of dyslexia are related to deficits in this area

Cues for Phonological Awareness - Narr (2006)

Cued Speech

Visual Phonics

Listening - The Value of Ling

  • Cover the spectrum

  • The 6 sounds

  • a

  • ee

  • oo

  • s

  • sh

  • m

Listening - Issues for Deafblind

Deafblind children often fit with hearing aids or cochlear implant later

Deafblind children often don’t get the same opportunity for instruction

Speechreading and speaking

  • Cued speech


  • Visual phonics


Visual Phonics Example

Speechreading and Speaking-Issues for the Deafblind

  • Use the ADAMLS

  • Tactual speechreading = Tadoma

Last Thoughts on Phonological Awareness for the Deafblind

  • May support the development of literacy

  • Tied to good auditory skill and speech development

  • Don’t rule it out!

Literacy Media

Encompasses a variety of media:

  • Print

  • Braille

  • Alternative tactile writing

  • Tactile symbols

  • Picture symbols

  • Calendar systems

  • Object symbols

Functions of Literacy

Literacy supports:

  • Acquiring knowledge

  • Memory

  • Entering a fantasy life

  • Entertainment

  • Problem solving (word puzzles and riddles)

  • Financial transactions

  • Creating and maintaining relationships (mail)

  • Processing of emotions

  • Conveying instructions

  • Announcements of importance

  • Advertisements

  • Identification of people, places, things

  • Inspiration and spiritual growth

Functions of Literacy

Pragmatic functions of literacy: if we use these in our teaching we give students motivation and practical reasons to read.

What Children Need to Read & Write

Emergent literacy research tells us children need:

  • to know that writing is all around them

  • to see significant people using print

  • to see print used in fun and functional ways

Students with Deafblindness

Many will not have the opportunity to observe others reading.

To address this we must structure opportunities for children to observe us reading in a way that is meaningful to them.
Model Reading

Model reading utilizing a variety of media accessible to the child throughout the school day:

  • Books

  • Newspapers & magazines

  • Calendars

  • Computers

  • Signs

  • Lists

Story Reading

In reading a story with emerging readers, or individuals at a literacy awareness level, bring objects that relate to the story

Comment and Converse

Comment on and converse about literacy activities with the child.

  • Comment when a child notices a word or symbol

  • Pause during reading stories and respond to the child’s reactions

  • Respond to the child’s drawing and writing

Accessibility of Literacy Media

Make literacy accessible:

  • Address interests and experiences of individual with deafblindness

  • Use understandable language

  • Allow student to participate in making and writing books

  • Include lots of print and braille signs and books in classroom

  • Use a story box with objects to accompany story

Accessibility of Literacy Media

Make literacy accessible:

  • Adapt books and stories using tactile items, textures and Braille

Clear Vision: Making Tactile Books


Tactile Book Advancement Group (TBAG)


  • Adapt or create books and stories using large print and simple high contrast pictures or graphics

  • Have appropriate drawing, creative art, and “writing” materials available

  • Use the child’s communication mode: sign language or objects

  • Use appropriate and familiar language and concepts

Connect Literacy to Child’s World

  • Create experience stories based on recent events and activities

  • Use a memory box or scrap book items

  • Use targeted vocabulary

  • Write poems, use journals

Emerging Phase

Provide opportunities for independent and participatory reading and writing:

  • Playdough/tactile materials to create letters

  • Textured materials

  • Opportunities to scribble with braille writer, slate and stylus and other materials

Experimental Reading/Writing Phase

For students who are emerging into the experimental reading and writing phase, we see the following:

  • Enjoy being read to / will retell “read” familiar stories

  • Recognize letters

  • Show familiarity with rhyming and initial sounds

  • Make letter-sound matches

  • Write letters of the alphabet and some high-frequency words

  • Understand that reading and writing proceed left to right / top to bottom

  • Use language to explain and explore

Literacy Instruction

Should teach and reinforce these early literacy skills.

Teachers should provide daily:

  • Opportunities to write and read

  • Direct instruction in letter recognition and writing

  • Direct instruction in letter sound matching

  • Direct instruction in word recognition

How to do this?

While “only the vision teacher should teach braille”, instruction can include participation by classroom teachers, interveners and instructional aids:

The TVI can

  • collaborate with the team to create appropriate materials

  • do direct instruction of new skills (i.e., introduce a new braille letter)

After introduction of new skills by the TVI:

  • TVI demonstrates to staff how to re-teach and reinforce the new skill

  • Team members read aloud daily

  • Team members target upcoming reading vocabulary and email to TVI so she can bring appropriate materials

  • Team members create experience stories with student by writing in print or on computer & the TVI brailles


NCDB Outcomes and Performance Indicators: Literacy


Emergent Literacy for Students Who are Deafblind,

Project Salute


National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness Practice Perspectives, August 2008

The Path to Symbolism

Whatever you do, believe this:

Students with deafblindness have a right to literacy!

The TVI is professionally obligated to take on literacy.

Literacy for Students with Deafblindness

There is little research and no proven method of teaching literacy to students with deafblindness, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach

1100 West 45th Street

Austin, TX 78756



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