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Deaf, blind people deserve care and respect from society

KARACHI: “A deaf-blind child uniquely experiences the world. Deaf-blind people need respect and care from society. Signing is essentially visual communication and was initially designed for hearing-impaired individuals as a mode of self-expression. Frequent high-quality communication will help advance his or her healthy development.

This study reveals that the introduction of a manual system for blind children can be a mode of expression that may be worthy of consideration.”

Ms Shelina Mitha, Speech and Language Therapist, UK, expressed these views while delivering a lecture on “Using Manual Signing with a NON-Speaking Child with Congenital Blindness” at a public awareness seminar held at the Prof Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Auditorium, organized by the Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), University of Karachi.

Health professionals, students, research scholars, NGO representatives, and the public attended the seminar, which was jointly organized by the Dr Panjwani Center and the Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP).

Talking about Makaton, Ms Mitha said that Makaton was another visual language system that uses signs and symbols. It is designed to support spoken language with the help of signs and symbols that are used with speech in spoken word order, she said. Makaton was often used for children and adults with learning disabilities as a simplified and accessible signed communication, she added.

Referring to her study, she said that her research aimed to examine how a normally hearing child, blind by birth, used Makaton signing within a milieu of total communication. The pattern of interaction with his communication partners was analyzed in terms of the frequency of their moves and functions and the child’s modes, she said, adding that the transcripts of excerpts of interactions were also examined.

She said that the findings of the study revealed that the child to be predominantly using Makaton signing as a mode of expressive communication.

Talking about the implications of the study, she pointed out that training for communication partners should aim to increase their interaction skills, teaching them how to facilitate, and expand children’s communication skills.

The session concluded with a hands-on training session.

October 26, 2019

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