Adapting to delivering education programmes to our Deafblind / MSI children and young people during the past year has been extremely challenging. The main challenge staff at Seashell are facing is how to make learning meaningful for Deafblind learners, who often rely primarily on their tactile sense to communicate and find out about their world.
Engaging with Seashell’s families and providing them with supportive coaching is crucial to the success of our remote teaching and learning. The pandemic has led families to quickly adapt to provide Intervener support for their children and young people, a role which many were not prepared or trained for.
The main considerations when planning and delivering the remote teaching sessions are as follows:
- Backgrounds had to be plain, no brightly coloured wallpaper and staff were advised to wear plain clothing. Visual distraction had to be minimised for the learner
- Positioning of their screen, ensuring that it was fixed (if possible) within their visual field and the brightness was adjusted to meet their individual needs
- Exaggerating our movements and using bright, colour resources to attract visual attention
- Sound quality: staff were advised to wear a headset to deliver the session
- Background noise in both environments had to be kept to a minimum so the learner’s ability to listen could be maximised
- Tactile exploration was facilitated by the family members so modelling of a ‘hand under hand’ approach was crucial
- Technology needed to work immediately, as there may only be a small window of opportunity when the young person is awake, engaged and ready to learn
- Enabling rest breaks for the learner. Visual fatigue is common when attending to a screen for prolonged periods
- Verbal instructions needed to be clear and simple. Times for chat were important to ‘check in’ with the family, but we tried to limit them to the start and end of the session.
- Routines and scripts needed to be followed and similar equipment used as they had been used to e.g. finished boxes
- How to make the learning fun and motivational for the learner and their family with resources already in the home or those we had dropped on the doorstep; we did not want to create additional stress for the family during difficult times.
- It is essential to implement these correctly in order to emulate the good practice followed within our everyday ‘face to face’ teaching of MSI learners here at Seashell.
If you are a professional working with Deafblind/MSI learners and have any questions or would like to find out more about our services, please get in touch with our Outreach team.