Experiences of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Teaching Social skills to Children with Deafblindness

Date

2023-12

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Abstract

Deafblindness (DB) is a unique disability that affects individuals differently. Children with DB are affected in different areas of their development such as communication, mobility, cognition, socialization, emotional well-being, and literacy. Children with visual impairments or DB lack significant visual cues in their environment such as gestures and facial expressions that facilitate interaction. These children lack visual learning opportunities. Reduced access to visual cues and imitation of social skills behaviors and patterns contributes to the risk of learned helplessness and passivity of children with DB in their environment. Learned helplessness is said to be when an individual believes that their behavior does not have an influence on their environment. This qualitative study explores the experiences of teachers of students with visual impairments teaching social skills to students who are deafblind. The study aimed to gain insights into the unique challenges, and strategies, for teaching social skills to this specific population. The research utilized a qualitative research design, employing semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of experienced teachers of children with visual impairments working with students with deafblindness. Thematic analysis was used to identify recurring themes and patterns in the participants' experiences. Findings highlight the complex challenges TSVIs face in teaching social skills to students who are DB. These challenges include the need for specialized communication strategies that integrate tactile signing, and alternative modes of communication to address communication barriers. The teachers reported the importance of creating a structured curriculum, and predictable environments to support social interactions, considering the unique sensory needs of their students. Teachers also emphasized the significance of individualized instruction, recognizing each student's diverse abilities, preferences, and learning styles. Strategies such as peer-to-peer modeling, role-playing, repetition, tactile signing, hand-over-hand, problem-solving, real-life situations, and conversational/verbal instruction were reported as effective in facilitating social skills development. Collaborative partnerships with other professionals, including occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and orientation and mobility specialists, were identified as valuable resources in promoting social integration. Teachers expressed satisfaction in witnessing their students' progress in developing social competence, building friendships, and fostering a sense of belonging within the school community. The findings of this study contribute to the existing literature by shedding light on the experiences of teachers who work with students with visual impairments in teaching social skills to those who are deafblind. The results underscore the importance of specialized training, interdisciplinary collaboration, and individualized approaches to effectively support the social development of students with dual sensory impairments.

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Keywords

Deafblindness, teacher of students with visual impairments (TSVI), Disabilities, Visual Impairments, social Interaction

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