Communication in the Classroom for Children with Dual Sensory Impairments: Studies of Teacher and Child Behavior

Charity Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


The child with dual sensory impairments (DSI) may be unaware when a potential communication partner is present, may have no clearly recognizable or conventional means of communication, and may have learned that attempts to communicate go unheeded. These factors contribute to the low rates of communication often exhibited by these children and explain why communication training is a high priority in the classroom. In the classroom for students with DSI, it is generally the teacher or instructional assistant who is both the catalyst for, and the receiver of, communicative exchanges with students. Unfortunately, no published data exist to describe the rate of communicative behavior of children with DSI and the attempts of their teachers to encourage communication. This paper reports the results of two studies on the communication-related behavior of children with DSI and their teachers. In Study I, observations of the entire school day were made to determine overall rates of cues for communication provided by teachers to individual students with DSI and to analyze the activity contexts in which these cues were most likely to occur. In Study II, 60-minute observations were conducted three times a month for an entire school year to assess the rate of cues for communication provided by teachers and the rate of communicative behavior produced by their students with DSI in regular classroom programs. This study helped to establish baseline rates of communicative behavior and allowed an analysis of the relationship between the students- communicative behavior and their teachers- cues for communication. Results of the two studies showed that the rate of cues for communication provided by teachers is relatively low, as is the rate of communication by their students with DSI. These data reflect some of the difficulties associated with implementing a -milieu- approach to language training for students who have severe sensory impairments. The need to provide teachers with better preservice and inservice training in the area of communication skills for students with multiple disabilities is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-274
Number of pages13
JournalAAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1990



  • communication training
  • dual sensory impairments
  • intervention
  • multiple disabilities
  • symbol systems
  • visual impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech and Hearing

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