California Deafblind Services

Winter 2011 (Vol. 16, No. 1)
Acknowledging and Managing Stress


We invite your feedback about these articles -
please see the comments section at the end of the page or post on our Facebook page.

 Research Update:  Stress and Children who are Deaf-Blind 

by Maurice Belote, Project Coordinator

Project Name: Reduction of Long-Term Stress in Children who are Deaf-Blind
Funding source: University of Utah Faculty Research and Creative Grant and the Center on Disabilities and Human Development, University of Idaho
Co-Principal Investigators:
Robin Greenfield, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center on Disability and Human Development, University of Idaho
Catherine Nelson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Utah

Two of our colleagues in the western U.S., Drs. Robin Greenfield and Catherine Nelson, are currently conducting a research project looking at stress and children who are deaf-blind. Because this issue of the CDBS newsletter focuses on the same topic, Robin and Cathy graciously agreed to be interviewed by CDBS and provide us with a brief description of the project and what they hope to achieve. The following is a summary of these interviews.

Background information: Children who are deaf-blind have, of course, many risk factors for stress. The main question of this research study is: how can educators reduce long-term stress to improve the quality of life for children who are deaf-blind, and what would that look in a classroom setting?

.... (Please open the link above for the complete article.)

Stress – Good Cop or Bad Cop?

by David Brown, Educational Specialist

Many things in life that are conventionally regarded as bad actually serve very important positive functions for us, as long as we can manage and respond to them appropriately. Examples of these things would include pain, fear, tiredness, change of all kinds, and also stress. In time-limited and manageable doses, stress is essential to life, a significant source of brain development and learning, of positive self-image, of effective problem-solving abilities, and of good physical and mental health. A few years ago I was preparing a talk about stress and I chose the title Stress - Good Cop or Bad Cop?, and at the same time Catherine Nelson, a professor of education at the University of Utah, was also preparing a presentation about stress, and she used the title Stress - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We were both trying to make the point that stress can be good or bad depending upon a whole range of factors both inside the individual and outside in the environments in which they find themselves.

In her recorded presentation,1 Dr. Nelson gives a clear explanation of the physiology of stress, including the hormones involved (adrenalin, norepinephrine, and cortisol), the functions that they serve, and the processes by which we use and then discard these stress hormones once the challenge is met. When we face a threat or some kind of challenge the main job of these hormones is to improve attention and focus, release glucose from energy stores, and increase blood flow to the skeletal muscles and oxygen flow to the brain. Overall this gets us into a high state of alertness, what is called the ‘‘fight-or-flight’’ state, so that we are able to think and plan and perform as well as possible in the challenging situation, whether we have been planning and anticipating (or even choosing) it ourselves, or even if it has come to us suddenly and unexpectedly.

.... (Please open the link above for the complete article.)

Infant Massage for Babies with Sensory Impairments

By Gloria Rodriguez-Gil, Educational Specialist

Infant massage is a technique that can yield great benefit to all babies and their parents, but is especially appropriate for infants with sensory impairments because of the fundamental role the sense of touch may play in this population.

• The sense of touch may be the most reliable avenue to help connect the baby to their parent(s). Depending on the degree of vision and hearing, touch may be the main way the baby senses the world, so infant massage can become an important bonding experience. In this scenario, the baby can feel the comforting touch of mom or dad, and the parent can feel the baby’s body reacting and responding to his or her touch.

• Infant massage strokes are given slowly and rhythmically. These two characteristics are very important for a baby with sensory impairments. Slow strokes can give enough time for the baby to perceive and respond to parental touch. Rhythmic strokes can provide a sense of comfort and predictability that allows the child to relax.

• Infant massage may provide a positive tactile experience for the baby. Infant massage is given through deep touch, which can be very comforting. Having a positive tactile experience may encourage the baby to use the sense of touch to explore their surrounding environment.

• Infant massage may provide information to the baby about their body. The regular application of soothing touch may help the child create a mental image of their whole body and increase their self-awareness. This may improve the baby’s ability to play with their own body and with the world around them, for example by reaching for their feet, their caregiver or any object they may find attractive.

 .... (Please open the link above for the complete article.)

Parent to Parent:  Understanding Stress and Strategies for Coping

 By Myrna Medina, Family Specialist

Wouldn’t it be nice to live with less stress? “Yes” is the answer, of course, but reality is different. In modern life stress is part of our daily living; we face many demands and situations like high pressure work, bad traffic, and job insecurity that can lead us to be in a constant, “stressed-out” state.

When a family has a child with disabilities, this adds a whole new range of challenges to our lives, as we struggle to adapt to new demands. These often include expanded care-taking roles and unexpected financial, social and emotional pressures that can many times seem too big to manage.

.... (Please open the link above for the complete article.)

The National Family Association for Deaf-Blind provides support and advocacy on issues related to deaf-blindness.  To find out more, please visit their page at: