This week is Deafblind awareness week which brings understanding about those who experience sight and hearing problems.
Varying in each case, deafblind can mean a person may have limited sight and hearing, and in some cases no vision or sight at all.
Stockport charity Seashell Trust, who cares and educates children and young people with profound learning difficulties and communication needs, have 22 students in their school and college who are registered deafblind.
For all of the students staff at Seashell have to be innovative, creative and patient, and especially with those who are deafblind with additional learning disabilities as the world can be very overwhelming for them.
This is where Seashell Trust’s buddy dog Josh comes in to help, the specially trained Labrador assists the students to increase communication, physical activity and social inclusion. Interaction with Josh also prepares the young people for potentially having their own guide dog one day.
Bernie White, director of education at Seashell Trust, said: “One of our deafblind students Mohsin has worked with Josh to help him feel less isolated and take the lead when interacting with others.
“Our students have reacted wonderfully to Josh and his temperament is perfect for the Seashell environment.”
Deafblind awareness week is celebrated annually on the birthday of Helen Keller, the most well-known deafblind person in history. Born in 1880 in Alabama Helen contracted an unknown illness leaving her deafblind at the age of 19 months.
Although deafblindness didn’t stop Helen becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and she spent her life campaigning to improve the treatment of deaf and blind people across the world.
Helen was able to communicate with people and managed to listen to others talk by placing her hands on their lips and throat to identify movements.
Touching to communicate is really important with deafblind students, which is where Seashell’s hand under hand method comes into play. The hands take over the function of the eyes and ears for the deafblind person and they become a way for the person and the one helping can communicate.
For students at Seashell this method allows learners to help students explore, play and build trust as well as giving them communication skills that they will need throughout life.
Seashell Trust offers a number of workshops and training for care givers and parents of those with disabilities, including deafblindness. To keep up to date please visit: www.seashelltrust.org.uk