Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, learning, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Teaching strategies and key approaches to support learning for deafblind children

Today we’ve got the first part of our blog on inclusive teaching strategies from Sense Children’s Specialist Services.

When we talk about deafblind or multi-sensory impaired (MSI) children we mean:

  • Children who have difficulties with sight and hearing and sometimes learning or other additional disabilities.
  • Children who have medical conditions which are likely to cause problems with sight and hearing as they grow older – for example Usher syndrome.

Teaching Strategies

Being deafblind makes it much harder for a child to learn. Curriculum activities must be presented in the best possible way for each individual child.

The learning environment needs to be optimised, and the key approaches of building trust, being consistent, helping understanding, taking time, following the child and being supportive should be used.

Many children who are multi-sensory impaired need to work one-to-one with an adult for many activities. Staff need to know the child and have knowledge and expertise about deafblindness.

Qualified teachers of children who are multi-sensory-impaired and trained interveners need to have specialist training in multi-sensory impairment.

Providing Information

Deafblind children cannot pick up information incidentally. This means that every aspect of every activity may need to be deliberately presented to a child, in a way that they can access:

  • Children need to know about an activity before it begins – what will happen, where and with whom.
  • They may also need to explore objects and places before using them in an activity.
  • Activities may need to be demonstrated hand-under-hand (where the child rests their hands on top of an adult’s). This approach encourages the child in a safe and sensitive way – forcing the child will not help him or her to learn.
  • Many deafblind children cannot see or hear the results of their own or others’ actions – for example, what happens to a ball when you throw it. They need specific feedback about activities and particularly about their successes.

Learning in context

New skills or concepts to be learned need to be broken down into their components. This helps to avoid assuming that children already know about aspects of an activity (for example that clothes get wet in the rain). It also helps in teaching, when very small steps may need to be taught one at a time.

It is important to teach these in the context of the whole activity, not in isolation. Deafblind children have particular problems linking one activity to another. They may not realise that separately taught skills are supposed to fit together.

Nearly every activity will provide opportunities to practise communication and mobility, and to see how existing skills in these areas can be used in new contexts.

For physical skills such as dressing, forward or backward chaining are often useful. In forward chaining, the child learns the first small step, then the first and second and so on through the activity. Backward chaining, where the child learns the last step first, is often better because the child immediately gets the satisfaction of completing the activity.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog on key approaches to support learning for deafblind children.

Further information can be found on Sense’s website – at Sense’s family’s centres.   Sense’s Children’s Specialist Services are a team of specialist advisory teachers, children’s therapists, and children and family support workers. The team provide expert advice and information to deafblind children and young people, their families, carers, and to professionals who work with them. They also provide support in the home, at school, or at Sense’s family’s centres. 


Sense is a national charity that has supported and campaigned for children and adults who are deafblind for over 50 years.


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