A storybook, tactile memory, experience tool, memory book, scrapbook and journal are all different ways to describe the same idea – a trace of some of the very important experiences and activities individuals with deafblindness may participate in. Since individuals with deafblindness have a unique learning style, Experience Tools are an excellent resource that can be tailored to the unique needs of these individuals. They can be created in a variety of ways including: tactile for individuals with little to no vision, colourful for individuals with sight or using auditory components for an individual with deafblindness that has some functional hearing. Scents also have a powerful impact for individuals with deafblindness and can easily trigger memories.
What is an Experience Tool?
A collection of items and steps directly related to an experience the person has had and/or will participate in. They are used to reflect on, initiate conversation, enhance the learning of concepts such as time, promote expressive and receptive language, anticipate events (such as routines), be engaged, make choices and be informed. They also provide hands on experience to the meaning of language which allows the individual to learn in a concrete manner.
Who would use an Experience Tool?
- Individual with deafblindness coactively with their Intervenor
- Individual with vision loss
- Individual with dual diagnosis
- Individual with any other communication barriers
Why use Experience Tools?
Experience Tools provide an opportunity for using a Total Communication Approach. They encourage and motivate people with communication barriers to initiate conversation, make choices, relive fond memories and fun times, communicate their wants and needs, allow for language development and give people a full experience. Experience Tools are empowering and can be used with a wide variety of communication barriers.
Benefits of Experience Tools:
Due to the dual sensory loss, individuals with deafblindness often become introverted and withdrawn from others as they may have problems communicating with them. Experience Tools create motivation for the individual to talk about an experience that they took part in. It gives them something to be excited about and anticipate doing again. By doing this, the Experience Tool provides the individual with the opportunity to independently engage in conversation with their Intervenor or other person.
Experience Tools provide the individual a chance to increase their ability to ‘listen’ and enhance their receptive communication. Over time, the use of experience tools will enable the individual with deafblindness to be more open to communication from others.
The importance of bonding between an individual with deafblindness and their Intervenor is beyond measure. The entire process of creating an Experience Tool allows for this bond to take place. The activity itself is a period of bonding as the individual gets to know the Intervenor and vice versa as well as sharing the experience. It is the discovery of new things, the independence of learning to do new things and the excitement, even fear, of participating in something unfamiliar. The creating of the Experience Tool allows for bonding as it is time spent doing something together. It allows for discussion about the activity-what the Experience Tool is about, who was there, what happened, what the individual liked or did not like about the experience and whether or not the individual would like to do it again.
Self Esteem & Sense of Accomplishment:
An Experience Tool creates a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment as the individual is able to look back upon the event and think to themselves “look what I did”. This can also be encouraged by an Intervenor who may say to the individual “remember when you ___?” consequently encouraging the individual to think about what they have accomplished or taken part in.
Experience Tools allow for the enhancement and learning of skills - both old and new. There is the opportunity to practice skills other than the use of sight or hearing. Fine motor skills may also be developed by things such as zippers, zip lock bags, placing items in a bag that needs to be opened, removing items from Velcro, etc.
Tactile Experience Tools can be used to reinforce spatial, temporal, and number concepts. They can facilitate meaningful expansion of language, social skills, and tactual perception.