I’ve been repeatedly asked how we are communicating with our daughter through the combination of blindness and deafness. I’m actually finding an amazing number of resources, but being less than two weeks into our experience, we are just in the very initial stages of finding what works for us. I honestly don’t yet know much about how other people cope with dual sensory loss, but here is what we are doing so far.
I learned Sign Language in high school and college. As I taught my kids the alphabet, I taught them their manual letters, so they have each known how to finger-spell since before kindergarten.
It is slow and tedious as an only form of communication. Like texting, when left without tone of voice, facial expression, nor body language clues, mixed with STRESSED parents and teen hormones and mood swings, we (all of us) have tears many times each day, from misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and frustration.
It is hard, but we are so thankful to still have this bridge into our daughter’s world by spelling one letter at a time into her hands! I keep reminding myself of how Helen Keller started, without the verbal and visual background R. can still access in her memories, and I know God will bring our girl through this storm.
Because she can pick up vibrations, we have also established some family codes, like I’ll walk into her room and knock on the wooden frame of the bed she is in – tap 1, 1-2, 1-2-3 in quick secession – to say, “I love you!” When we need to get her attention fast, like alert her she is about to be in danger, the whole family starts banging on walls and stomping hard on the floor – occasionally she will feel the vibrations in time to freeze so she doesn’t trip over something in her path. (Edited to add that today we had a big scare when she walked two car lengths farther than I had directed her to do and walked out into an open parking lot during the busy time of after school pick up.)
Exploring YouTube, I found a few fascinating deafblind videos. Here is one where two friend help their friend experience a world cup game. This video explains the basics of the development of Pro-Tactile ASL (American Sign Language) by the deafblind community.