Nonverbal Communication Skills for Blind Children
To be successful in a sighted world, your child must master effective nonverbal communication.
Think about a potential employee who does not turn her face to the interviewing panel as she speaks. Imagine someone who joins a recreational club to make friends but communicates with his body language that he is disinterested or unapproachable. Last, envision a young adult on a date who stands uncomfortably close to her romantic interest because she never learned cultural norms around personal space. Effective nonverbal communication is beneficial in all social settings.
Your grade schooler may find it easiest to learn respectful and friendly nonverbal communication by learning the communication role of each body part, head to toe. This can be labeled “head-to-toe listening.” Here are the basics to teach.
- Head: Your head, while upright, should be directed toward the speaker and can occasionally nod in agreement.
- Eyes: Eye contact is made or appears to be made. To avoid looking too intense, you can look away from time to time.
- Mouth: If the conversation is positive, light-hearted, or friendly, don’t forget to smile! A genuine smile is warm and inviting. It helps to brush and floss after a meal. If in doubt, ask a good friend if there is any food in your teeth!
- Shoulders: Shoulders are held upright, exuding confidence and alertness.
- Arms: To emphasize a comfortable and confident self, arms should be by your side instead of crossed over the chest.
- Hands: People generally use their hands while they speak. The goal is emphasis on important words without distracting from the spoken message. Hand movements should be relatively firm, instead of loose or too stiff. Repetitive hand movements are generally distracting.
- Legs: Stand at least one arm’s-length distance from the speaker with a comfortable, shoulder-width stance. Two people in conversation rarely stand directly in front of one another but usually angled toward one another.
- Feet: Feet pointed toward a speaker at a 45-degree angle can be interpreted as interest. Feet pointed away from a speaker will likely be interpreted as a desire to walk away.
Here are some practical methods for teaching proper nonverbal communication.
- Role-play situations as a means to instruct and provide practice. You can read an example of role-playing a first impression and related discussion questions in the nonverbal communication lesson plan on CareerConnect.
- Provide opportunities for your child to practice in safe environments. One example, expecting your child to order her meal at a restaurant, is found in the nonverbal communication lesson plan.
- Help your child identify potential careers based on her interests and strengths using CareerConnect’s tool “Browse Jobs by Career Cluster.” Assist your child in developing opportunities to speak with others in her desired career fields. Help her connect her career goals with the need to learn nonverbal communication skills to the career. Read the public speaking lesson plan on CareerConnect for more detailed information.
- Teach your child the importance of showing an authentic concern and respect for others, as described in the relating well to others lesson plan on CareerConnect. Help her understand the typical, positive results of effective nonverbal communication.
- Instruct your child to set goals for nonverbal communication, as described in the goal-setting lesson plan on CareerConnect.
- Give your child opportunities to teach nonverbal communication, as explained in the student-led instruction lesson plan on CareerConnect.
- Take your child to a variety of social settings and describe the nonverbal communication you witness. For suggestions, read the analyses of social situations lesson plan on CareerConnect.
- Perhaps most effective, allow a trusted classmate to model and assist your child in the process of learning nonverbal communication. Read the modeling and feedback from a sighted peer lesson plan on CareerConnect.
The previously mentioned lesson plans and more are free resources from AFB’s CareerConnect.