Listen to Me 2018 Conference Programme

“Listen to Me” Multi-Sensory Impairment Conference, Thursday 10th May, Manchester Conference Centre


Find out more about the day and our speakers.


Conference Programme

9.30                 Registration with tea, coffee, pastries                           

10.00               Welcome and Introductions
Mark Geraghty, Chief Executive/ Principal, Seashell Trust

10.10               Keynote Session One: “Communicating, Connecting and Travelling with Congenitally Deafblind People through a Landscape of Touch”
Dr Paul Hart, Head of Research and Practice, Sense Scotland
Traditionally when thinking about communication and language development, we think of learning the language(s) used by others in the wider cultural community. Some argue that we need the perceptual abilities to perceive the language(s) around them and we need to learn from people who already are fluent in these language(s). This leads to a significant challenge for people who are born deafblind. They do not have the perceptual abilities to acquire spoken or even visually signed languages, due to their hearing and visual impairments. Neither can they find communication partners who are already fluent in tactile languages, because none truly exists. However, it also leaves an exciting question, which is at the heart of today’s presentation: how do people journey towards a language that does not yet exist? Exploring this question provides an opportunity to think differently about how languages might develop in the tactile medium and about the roles played by both communication partners in this process.           

11.20               Break with tea, coffee, biscuits         

11.50               Keynote Session Two: “What does MSI Mean?”

David Brown, Deafblind Educational Specialist              
The majority of children with deafblindness today have significant medical issues and, as well as difficulties with vision and hearing, they experience problems with other sensory systems, including the perception of pain, smell, taste, touch, and balance. Because every one of our senses is designed to develop and work simultaneously with all the others, a problem with one sense may result in problems with the functioning of other, apparently unrelated, senses. Two of these ‘other’ senses, the proprioceptive sense and the vestibular sense, are particularly important but often ignored. Knowing about these senses, how they work, what might happen if they are not working properly, and what to do about it, can make a surprising difference to the development of functional vision and hearing. As a result of this genuinely MSI perspective many behaviours that are generally thought of as ‘bad’ begin to be seen as actually quite smart adaptive responses. Sometimes accepting, re-directing, or even encouraging these behaviours can be much more helpful than merely trying to stop them.

13.00               Buffet Lunch              

14.00               A programme of workshop sessions including:

“The Role of Nurturing Touch in the Lives of People with MSI and Complex Needs”
Julia Barnes, Sensory Manager, Ravenscliffe High School
Nurturing touch might be imagined as the ‘icing on the cake’ but I propose that it is the ‘cement’ that bonds us all in our friendships, relationships and our communities. We will explore the effects of nurturing touch has on the varied needs of someone with MSI and complex needs, what these touches may look like and how to offer them.

"Self-regulation and Self-stimulation: the Emotional Heart of the Child"
David Brown, Deafblind Educational Specialist
Poor self-regulation is a very common feature of many children with MSI, and many factors probably contribute to this problem. As always, the best place to begin is with observation of the child’s existing spontaneous behaviours. Vestibular dysfunction is found throughout this population, for a variety of different reasons, and it plays an important role in the poor development of self-regulation abilities, yet the problem is rarely identified so is usually ignored and the resulting behaviours are misinterpreted. A consideration of the functions of ALL our senses can help us to understand why we selfstimulate, and also understand what any child’s self-stimulation behaviors tell about their difficulties and needs. The sensory, emotional, cognitive, and physiological aspects of self-regulation will be mentioned, and consideration will be given to the crucial importance of self-stimulation behaviours as self-regulation behaviours.

“Managing Behaviour in the Classroom for Learners with CHARGE Syndrome”
Dr Gail Deuce, Consultant MSI Teacher
Parents and professionals often talk of behavioural difficulties encountered in individuals with CHARGE. Gail will discuss this with consideration to the CHARGE behavioural phenotype proposed by Hartshorne (2011), looking at potential triggers and how we might respond to this in the classroom.

"Engaging with Sound and Optimising Listening Skills for Children and Young People with Multi-Sensory Impairment"
Jane Douglas, Specialist Complex Needs Audiologist, Seashell Trust

The auditory system provides us with a wide range of information about people and the environment which we implicitly understand and accept for our overall communication, environmental awareness and general wellbeing.

However children and young adults with multi-sensory impairments may process sound very differently and require support to enable them to understand their auditory world. This presentation will explore how someone with complex difficulties may interpret sounds and how we can help them to understand that sound carries meaning.

There will also be practical hints and tips to develop and encourage improved listening skills.

Communication in the Tactile Modality”
Paul Hart, Head of Research and Practice, Sense Scotland
This workshop will explore in more detail how we can use gestures and actions from everyday activities to help support the development of communication in the tactile modality.  It will build on ideas highlighted in the morning presentation and will use films and practical discussions to illustrate how we can all match our communication support to the communication strategies already used by deafblind learners. We will also highlight how these ideas might apply to all learners with communication support needs.

"Symbolic Communication: Listen to Me!"
Michelle Jones and Vimla Ramrakhiani, Lead MSI Practitioners, Seashell Trust
Multi-sensory impaired children have limited visual and auditory skills to observe and listen, missing out on that all important incidental learning.  They rely primarily on co-active touch to explore people and everyday objects to give them that sense of shared experience and identity.  Symbolic forms of communication e.g. objects of reference, can only be introduced once these foundations are well established and the learner has reached the appropriate cognitive and communicative levels of development. 

We are going to explore and understand where the MSI learner is on this journey and how we, as the responsive adult, can support this communication journey.

“Deafblind Learner Voice and Transition”
Heather Murdoch, Head of MSI Unit, Victoria School, Birmingham
Change, even positive change, can be difficult for everyone.  This workshop will explore why it is especially difficult for learners with deafblindness/MSI, looking at the impact of both small and large transitions.  Supporting learners effectively through change involves both helping them to understand what is happening, and ensuring that their voice is heard by others. The workshop will consider various supportive approaches, using examples from the Victoria MSI Unit Curriculum, and including communication, understanding time and place, the learner’s access to real choices and their ownership of the process.

"Developing Communication for Multi-Sensory Impaired Learners"
Beccy Timbers, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Seashell Trust
This workshop will provide case studies that focus on the communication development of children and young people with sensory impairments.  These will include a range of Augmentative  and Alternative Communication (AAC) and intervention approaches that have been successful in supporting receptive and expressive communication for multi-sensory impaired learners.

14.40               Break with tea, coffee, biscuits                 

15.00               Workshop sessions continue.

15.45               Plenary

16.00               Close