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Literacy for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

Vocabulary Development

The expansion of a child's vocabulary is a key factor in the development of his or her reading and writing skills.  Learning new vocabulary, however, is not an end in itself. It is not enough to merely teach children to recognize words by sight. Children also need to understand words' meanings as well as how particular words are used in varying situations. This is true for all children, but it holds particular relevance for children with combined vision and hearing loss.

Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary. (Tim Gunn)

Children with combined vision and hearing loss encounter the world in a much different way than those whose vision and hearing is intact. They must rely on others to help them access things they cannot see and hear clearly and help them interpret what is going on around them. As vocabulary develops, teaching is most effective when all efforts focus on the words and concepts that are most relevant to each child's particular life experiences rather than words that may or may not have real-life meaning to the child.

Related Skills

Literacy skills should not be taught in isolation because they relate to numerous developmental and academic standards often being addressed by a child's educational team. Awareness of interrelated skills assists teams in IEP development and planning holistic instruction.

Attention and Response
Attention/response to informational cues; joint attention; increased duration of active engagement with literacy activities and/or literacy partner 

Interaction and Communication
Ability to access literacy partner; increased expressive vocabulary; increased receptive vocabulary; use of multiple forms of communication  

Response to informational cues; auditory discrimination; visual fixation; eye gaze; use of tactile skills for sensory input 

Tactile discrimination; uses touch to access objects or tactile pictures/letters; uses hands to track in preparation to read braille

One-to-one correspondence; matching; use of emergent symbolic forms (e.g., pictures and/or line drawings); increased number of words recognized in text (print, large print, braille); increased number of words understood in text (pictures, print, and/or braille)

Video Clips