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Gordon Dutton’s Blog (6)

  • How best can we speak with children with cerebral visual impairment?
  • Radio scriptwriters are well aware their scripts must be understandable through sound alone.
  • Once everything that everyone says is easier to understand, your child may well become more engaged and start to learn better.

Radio Parenting: A Route to Inclusion and Learning.

In Blog 1, I suggested one needs a good profile of one's child to be able to help them learn, understand and communicate with others.

An important approach to help them in this way can be called 'Radio Parenting'.

What is this?

Close your eyes as you watch a film. Two things happen to the sound track. Although any background music stands out more, a lot of what is said loses its meaning. Why? Because the script goes along with what is seen. When you're not watching, parts of the script may not make sense.

For a number of years, I've helped parents of children without vision understand the need to become 'Radio Parents'.

When you close your eyes and listen to the radio, the spoken word continues to make sense. Radio scriptwriters are well aware their scripts must be understandable through sound alone.

You may not think the idea of 'Radio Parenting' applies to you and your family. But it can and does at times for all families. Whenever you talk about something that can't be seen, you may well change your language into radio format to help everyone understand what you're talking about, but perhaps without realising.

So how best can we speak with children with cerebral visual impairment?

Every child with CVI has their own unique pattern of abilities, and limitations, so we need to make best use of their abilities, while compensating for any limitations.

Some possible limitations include low vision (with a range of possible causes) meaning that detail in the surroundings may not be seen and facial expressions may not be meaningful because:

  • It may be difficult to look at you while you're talking because in CVI it's often difficult to listen when looking at a face
  • Low visual acuity can mean that facial expressions can't be seen
  • Fast moving facial expressions may be missed
  • Difficulty recognising faces is often accompanied by difficulty interpreting language in facial expressions
  • Isolated inability to interpret facial expressions can occur

For each of these limitations using "radio language" can make a big difference.

So when to start being a Radio Parent?

How about now?

What to do?

  • Start practicing by closing your eyes and listen to conversation. Work out what you can't understand and why, and make this your starting point.
  • Listen to spoken radio. Copy the methods and wording they use. It doesn't take long to master.
  • By using radio language to talk about anything you know your child doesn't see so well, you'll be making sure that what you say can be understood better.
  • Once everything that everyone says is easier to understand, your child may well become more engaged and start to learn better.

What if it's facial expressions that can't be understood?

Changing one's language to both communicate one's own emotions and to respond to and explain your child's feelings is a good first step.

In this way, a lot can change, and some misunderstandings and difficult behaviours can lessen.

These principles of course also apply for friends, family and professionals communicating with those with a visual impairment.

It's so easy to think that everyone sees as oneself, and to talk as if they too are seeing through our eyes!

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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.