Communication is key at Learning Hub seminar

Posted: 04/07/2018 | Education,

Communication is an essential part of any school pupil’s day. Saying hello to friends in the morning, asking a teacher for help, or choosing what to have for lunch are just some of the ways that children express themselves throughout the day.

Teachers look at computer screenAt the Royal Blind School many of the young people have Multiple Disabilities with Visual Impairment (MDVI). MDVI can make communication and understanding difficult and the Royal Blind School has developed a range of techniques to encourage communication with pupils.

In February, the Royal Blind School opened its doors to education professionals from across Scotland for a Learning Hub seminar on communication with learners with vision impairment and complex needs at an early stage of development.

The seminar highlighted a range of methods that Royal Blind School teachers use to communicate with their pupils. One such tool is Canaan Barrie signing.

The method of on-body signing was developed at the Royal Blind School and is now used in countries all around the world.

It works mainly through touch with most signs having a specific reference point on the body. The method involves movements close to the pupil, using the pupils’ hands, and on-body signing. The aim is to develop a vocabulary of movement and touch that reflects the everyday needs of the pupil.

Royal Blind Teaching Senior MDVI, Karen Boyd, said: “The purpose is not to teach the pupil to sign. Using Canaan Barrie brings the adult physically closer to the child that they are communicating with. That means the child is aware they are the focus of the communication.

“If you are speaking across the room to a blind or partially sighted child with complex needs, they don’t know they are being addressed. Communication can cause a great deal of anxiety for a child if they are not sure they are being addressed, especially in a group situation.

“By using on-body signing, the child will feel engaged and communicated with, they know when they are no longer the focus of the communication and they are able to express themselves effectively.”

If you are an educator of a vision impaired pupil and would like to learn more about Canaan Barrie Signing, sign up to the Learning Hub’s free workshop on 22 May 2019 at or call 0131 446 3128.