Fall 2014 (Vol. 19, No. 2)


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  Fact Sheet: Planning Family Outings  
by Julie Maier
CDBS Educational Specialist

Families with young children often enjoy visiting parks, zoos, nature centers, amusement parks, and other popular tourist sites during their free time. Many of us may have fond memories of these special family outings in our own childhood. Many of the venues are designed to provide an enjoyable experience for adult family members and children of various ages and many families do some pre-planning to prepare for the excursion. However, planning and executing this type of outing can be intimidating for families of children who have vision and hearing loss and other disabilities because of their child’s unique needs and the different ways the child experiences new environments and new activities. Have you ever wondered what strategies might help a family participate in these experiences in ways that are fun for all members of the family, including the child with deaf-blindness? The following tips could be helpful when planning and enjoying similar activities in the future:

Planning the trip:

•    Check the Internet and see if the venue you want to visit has a website. If yes, then check out the website to learn more about the accessibility of the site. Find out if there are any special services/programs/or accommodations offered for patrons with special needs, and any other suggestions for activities most families enjoy, as you may want to create some adaptations for those activities (e.g., tactile objects or a tool to hold items if your child has difficulty with this skill).

 .... Fact Sheet: Planning Family Outings Full Article

Fact Sheet: Promoting Interactions with Siblings and Peers
by Julie Maier
CDBS Educational Specialist

We can all probably agree that social relationships with one’s peers are an important quality of life outcome. For adults, these relationships might be childhood or school friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and people associated with organized group membership. For children, these relationships are usually siblings, cousins, neighbors, and schoolmates. These relationships are established through continually reciprocal interactions and involvement in shared activities and experiences, and for most of us these relationships are highly valued components of our daily lives. Forming these positive social relationships can be difficult for children with dual sensory losses and/or other medical needs. This is due to the fact that they require a great deal of care and support from adults to participate in daily life activities, communicate, and maintain good health, and thus they often have limited access to or interactions with peers.

Many children with deaf-blindness are not yet able to initiate interactions with peers or siblings, and usually other children do not recognize or understand the child’s attempts to engage or interact. This can be a challenging need area to address when a child’s health issues are very prominent and developing communication and motor skills and other adaptive life skills are a higher priority for the parents and service providers. However, it’s important to also recognize that interactions with other peers can provide opportunities to learn and practice skills in each of those areas, and might even provide extra motivation for the child to interact and play with someone closer to their age.

 .... Fact Sheet: Promoting Interactions with Siblings and Peers Full Article

Why Deaf-Blindness and Autism Can Look So Much Alike
by Maurice Belote, CDBS Project Coordinator
and Julie Maier, CDBS Educational Specialist

Why another article on autism?

The similarities in the ways that autism and deaf-blindness present in children have been recognized for a long time, as have diagnostic strategies for differentiating between autism and deafness. Teachers of the deaf-blind often hear people say that these children seem to act autistic or to have “autistic-like behaviors.” While it is possible for children to be both deaf-blind and be diagnosed with autism, it is much more likely that a child who is deaf-blind simply appears similar to a child with autism and, conversely, the child with autism might appear to have certain features consistent with deaf-blindness. The purpose of this article is not to consider the incidence of combined deaf-blindness and autism or weigh in on the debate over whether or not it is possible for children and young adults to have this dual diagnosis. The primary purpose of this article is to explain why children who are deaf-blind might, in some cases, share many of the same features associated with autism and how vision and hearing loss can explain these “autistic-like” features.

What exactly is autism?

In a nutshell, autism is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder, or difference, that is commonly recognized by the individual’s diminished or unusual communication style, difficulty socially interacting successfully with others, desire to be alone, obsessive insistence on sameness and routine, heightened or diminished sensory responses, and in some instances unexpected and unexplainable abilities and skills that do not match skills in other developmental areas (Attwood, 2008). Autism typically appears in the first three years of life, but in some cases may not fully manifest or be recognized until the social demands required in the child’s environment exceed his/her limited capacities. Although autism spectrum disorder is a life-long condition, adaptation, compensation, and progress in areas of deficits are possible and very likely (Frith, 2003). Many individuals with autism and their family members describe the brains of people with autism to be “wired differently” than people without autism, or neurotypicals, and they emphasize the autistic way of thinking as “different”, but not “disordered” or “deficient”.

 .... Why Deaf-Blindness and Autism Can Look So Much Alike Full Article