Adult mediation has pivotal role in promoting engagement through haptic strategies in children with learning disabilities and visual impairment


This review of the literature looked at issues relating to the development of haptic exploratory strategies in children who have visual impairment and learning disabilities. Haptic perception refers to the recognition of objects through touch, involving the perception of patterns such as edges, curves and textures, whereby people can identify three-dimensional objects by moving their fingers over the surface of the object or by holding and weighing up the object in their hand.

The author of the review points out that information received through haptic strategies is of particular significance for children with learning disabilities and visual impairments, given that they have little information available from visual stimuli. In addition of course, such young people may also often have additional sensory or physical impairments.

Early child development literature suggests not only a role for of independent activity in the development of exploratory strategies, but a role also for vision in ‘mediating’ information. The author points out that in order for children with visual impairment and learning disabilities to develop such exploratory strategies, there may be a pivotal role for the child’s learning partner to ensure that haptic information is appropriately ‘mediated’.

The author concludes that in children with visual impairment and learning disabilities, there is evidence in the literature to support the increased significance of the child’s adult partner in ensuring that “progression promotes active engagement with the environment, and is suited to the individual needs of child.” In addition, they suggest that there is an emerging evidence base which shows useful indicators of how children’s experiences can be mediated to promote greater independent activity in the child’s exploration and understanding of the world.

Mediating haptic exploratory strategies in children who have visual impairment and intellectual disabilities, McLinden, M. , in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 129–139.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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