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ERIC Number: ED531842
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 5
Developing Concepts with Children Who Are Deaf-Blind
Miles, Barbara; McLetchie, Barbara
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness
In children, concepts develop in a spiral, with the child at the center. A positive self-concept begins within a responsive caregiving environment. Concepts build upon one another. The more ideas and memories that a child has about the way the world and relationships work, the easier it is to develop further ideas. Once a child realizes, for example, that when he claps his hands, his father is likely to clap too, he begins to understand the concept of cause and effect. An understanding of one kind of cause and effect concept makes it easier to learn others. Having mastered the first concept, a child is more likely to understand another. When relating to a child who is deaf-blind, it is important to distinguish between concepts and skills. Having certain skills does not mean that a child will necessarily understand related concepts. Carolyn Monaco, a consultant and educator in the field of deaf-blindness, uses an example of doing the laundry to illustrate this difference. A child who is deaf-blind may be able to do laundry--put clothes in a machine, transfer them to the dryer, and fold them--without necessarily understanding the concepts of "clean" and "dirty" which are so central to this task. Such learning happens quite naturally for a child who can see and hear well. When a child is deaf-blind, one can not take any of these concepts for granted. Deaf-blind children must be consciously and continually provided with experiences that enable them to develop a gradually expanding view of the world. There are a number of categories of concepts. An understanding of these will positively effect a child's life experience. These include: (1) how the world works (routines, what things are used for, cause-and-effect); (2) how the physical environment is arranged and how to navigate it (orientation and mobility); (3) where things come from (the natural world and its cycles and laws); and (4) how things are sequenced (time, order of activities). When a child is repeatedly involved in experiences that involve these things, concepts develop over time in a gradual way. It is important to cultivate attitudes, environments, and techniques that enable deaf-blind children to learn concepts all day long--from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. It is essential that they have many opportunities every day to make up for what they miss due to limited or distorted sight and hearing. More formal lessons that teach specific concepts and associated vocabulary are also necessary, but these lessons must always be taught within an environment that naturally, moment-to-moment, cultivates the development of positive social and self-concepts and gives deaf-blind children access to their surrounding environments. One can promote concept development through communication and conversation, by helping a child access the world around him, and by enhancing his participation in activities and the routines of every day life. This paper presents some suggestions that describe how to do this.
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness. Teaching Research Institute Western Oregon University 345 North Monmouth Avenue, Monmouth, OR 97361. Tel: 800-438-9376; Fax: 503-838-8150; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Office of Special Education Programs (ED/OSERS)
Authoring Institution: National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)