Let Me Join Your Tactile Attention: A Sign Language Perspective on the Communicative Togetherness with a Child who is Congenitally Deafblind


  • Kari Schjøll Brede
  • Jacques Souriau


Congenitally deafblindness, tactile sign language development, articulation place, joint attention frames, gestures – proto-signs – signs, narratives.


This article will describe and discuss how tactile language might develop in a child who is congenitally deafblind (cdb), based on a real world enquiry of a five-year-old boy. This article is based on the RuG Master Thesis LET ME JOIN YOUR ATTENTION (Brede, 2008). It will draw attention to and give examples on how it looks like, when a teacher sees the child’s communicative skills and acts to and answer the child’s utterances, accepting it as language. 

Language development in seeing and hearing children normally happens very fast and is usually uncomplicated. The joint attention and perception of a tactile sign language is much more complicated, and the cdb children’s natural gestural manner of being in the world can seem complicated to their communication partners. The children with cdb need competent partners, who need knowledge about features in the early processes to support the development. In this article, video capturing and analyses are presented as a research methodology. The results of this study describe ten steps within a period of 16 months where bodily experiences led to a shared meaningful sign. They describe and discuss joint attention in tactile language development. They also present an interesting path for meaning making, leading to linguistic units, which are influenced both by the culture and by the child himself. The results from a single case study of a boy with cdb may be of interest to the community of deafblindness, and to the augmentative and alternative communication community.