Network of the Month: Communication Network

Network of the Month: Communication Network

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DbI Communication Network of the Month September 2022

I am Marleen Janssen, and chair of this DbI communication Network. I am also a professor specialized in Congenital and Acquired Deafblidness at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. There I started in 2019 an Institute for Deafblindness, with the aim to share knowledge about communication and other topics on development and lifelong learning of people who are deafblind.

Where did my interest in communication with people who are deafblind come from? Long time ago as a teacher at the deafblind school Rafael, connected to Royal Dutch Kentalis in Sint-Michielsgestel the Netherlands, I learned to communicate with my first deafblind student. A girl of seven years old at that time when I started. She was completely blind and completely deaf with additional disabilities because of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. She did not know the difference between night and day. In the five years that followed and that I was her full-time teacher she learned a lexicon of 900 concepts, and also 2-3 word sentences, through natural gestures, referential objects, and fingerspelling in the hand. Those communication methods were known for a long time because of Helen Keller, a famous American deafblind woman who became deafblind at 19 months and who received a lifelong education from Ann Sullivan and others. But how exactly do you use those methods by first building up a good relationship and good contact with somebody who is born deafblind, that was my biggest question at that time. It took me up till now to find some answers.

And how glad I was to have been a member of DeafBlind International all those years. Because I found many answers together with my international colleagues.

The DbI Communication Network is one of the oldest networks of Deafblind International and was founded in 1989 at the conference in Warwick. It started as the European Working group on Communication and for many years this network organized conferences and courses in Europe as a smaller network. The main aims of this network are now:

  1. To share knowledge on communication from different countries, in which video análysis of communication with people who are deafblind is the key focus.
  2. Sharing knowledge about communication strategies for parents, caregivers and teachers based on video analysis and video feedback to develop communication further
  3. To open the Communication Network to individual members, not only professionals, but also persons with deafblindness, parents and siblings, researchers and other people who are interested in this topic. Although traditionally the core target group of this network is congenital deafblindness, we want to unite with the target groups of acquired and age-related deafblindness, because we think the three groups can inspire each other, also in the area of communication.

For the coming year 2022 and 23 up till the DbI World conference in Ottawa Canada in July next year, our concrete activities are:

  1. Organizing on-line webinars, 2 times a year in November and in April on communication, especially focused on parents and family members of children and adults with congenital deafblindness; with interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and sign language. We work with members all over the world and including Asia, Africa and South America
  2. Preparing the Preconference Canada in July 2023, which will last for 2 days and is divided into 4 parts aimed at people who deafblind, professionals, families, and researchers
  3. And we are working on three different book projects:
    1. The Groningen Study group on diversity in communication (which are the founders of this Communication network) is working on a new book on Video analysis and communication from a dialogical perspective.
    2. With a lot of members of the Communication network and the Research network we will work on two academic volumes for the Oxford University Press, and one professional volume. One book is focused on the assessment and intervention of Communication in children and adults who are deafblind. The book must be finished in December 2023 and will be published in 2024. The professional volume will be led by Deafblind Authors and will be published later.
    3. Composing and publishing an overview book of 40 years of Communication articles in the Journal Deafblind International Review which will be finished in 2023.

I am leading this Communication Network, not on my own. Our organization team consists besides me, of Meredith Prain from Australia, Helle Buelund from Denmark, Steve Rose from the UK, and Saskia Damen from the Netherlands.

And if you are interested in this DbI Communication Network you can become a member by visiting the website of deafblind international

Hope to see you in the coming year online at one of our webinars, or in person during the preconference and the conference in July 2023 in Canada.

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