Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from S.M., North Carolina

How is it that deaf and blind children learn to physologically communicate? In other words, how does one part of the brain compensate for another in the deaf and blind?

Question from S.M., North Carolina. Posted April 24, 2012.
Response from Cathy Nelson - University of Utah

The best answer to the question comes from Dr. Jude Nicholas of the Resource Center for the Deafblind and Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway. Dr. Nicholas has an excellent article on the Deafblind International Website  http://www.deafblindinternational.org/PDF/Active%20Touch%20Article.pdf

In short, the answer involves  the sense of touch ,including tactile sensation, tactile perception, and tactile cognition. Studies have demonstrated that individuals who are deafblind are more experienced in recognizing stimuli through active touch than are sighted-hearing individuals. This then leads to superior performance on tasks involving the tactile cognition tasks of tactile working memory and tactile memory. Individuals who are deafblind encode tactile spatial information more efficiently than do individuals who are sighted and hearing. Increased tactual experiences thus enables neuroplasticity or the reorganization of the nervous system.