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Gordon Dutton’s Blog 19

Communicating with meaning

When in 1940 Churchill wrote...

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

...he wrote for everyone.

He saw the immediate need in adversity, for clarity and simplicity, and used words he believed nearly everyone could understand.

  • We all tend to talk about what we see and understand, and use facial expressions and gestures we think convey specific meaning.
  • We assume other people will see and understand us, because we think they are like us.
  • We expect (often but not always correctly), that they will see and hear as we do, both literally and metaphorically.

But what if they can't?

Then our words are meaningless. They are not understood and cannot be learned from.

We have wasted our time and effort, and theirs.

What does this mean for children with visual impairment?

Children learn from words, facial expressions and gestures that make sense.

So when we talk about what we see, but not what the child sees, our words are empty and meaningless.

When we use expressions and gestures they cannot easily see, or interpret. These too convey little or nothing.

This is now obvious.

But was it before reading this?

Let's be alert.

  • Let's check that we are getting through to our children.
  • Let's show our children with cerebral visual impairment different facial expressions from increasing distances, to find out how far away these can be seen.
  • Let's ask our children what our expressions mean, to them.

And let's tell everyone who knows the child, what the child sees, listens to and understands, and importantly, what the child does not.

Then let's all make sure we use all this knowledge, all the time, making sure that this information is in the child's profile and everyone living and working with the child has access to it, understands it, and uses it.

Is this a pipe dream, or can it become a reality?

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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.