Commissioned projects

Sense has commissioned five projects which look at deafblindness and sight and hearing impairments throughout a lifetime period:

Parent / infant joint attention in tactile modality investigation
Children’s Services assessment toolkit for pre-school / school needs
Investigation into self-identity perceptions on Usher diagnosis
Deafblind social use of haptics investigation
Older people with DSI – community / residential care evaluation

An investigation of strategies for parent / infant joint attention in a tactile modality, rather than a visual or auditory one

In this research, touch features prominently. How can we support parents to use touch with young babies to support this early stage of social communication? 

Joint attention to a task by infants and their caregivers is an activity that emerges in the first year of life. Parents spontaneously look at objects and use sounds to direct their infants’ attention to objects that then become the focus of a shared activity or a communication episode. Infants who respond to this behaviour show realisation that different perspectives of the same event are possible.

This research activity therefore seeks to explore whether joint attention to tasks that usually use vision or sound can be successfully presented in a tactile task.

If this is possible then practitioners will be able to support parents in developing interactional strategies that support infants in the earliest stages of social communication.

Awarded to Dr. M. Nunez, Glasgow Caledonian University.
Anticipated completion date: October 2013

Download and read the Joint Attention full report (PDF)

The development of a toolkit to identify the process undertaken by members of the Children’s Services team when assessing needs of individual deafblind children in the pre-school / school period

A trustworthy assessment process is vital if deafblind children are to get the learning and development opportunities they need, so Sense has commissioned an expert review of current practice within our children’s specialist team.

This project aims to investigate and document the assessment process used by Sense’s children’s specialist services team, confirm and enhance the process, develop a toolkit for use within Sense, and develop the professional expertise and confidence of the staff team.

The range of features that support the development of deafblind children, the idiosyncratic nature of their needs, and the breadth of experience and resources the team draw on means that there is value in a toolkit that outlines the structure of the assessment process (probably in flowchart form).

The toolkit will identify the decision points and guide decision-making, identify sources of information and expertise, categorise recommendations, summarise a way of ensuring that the assessment process is trustworthy and will contribute towards developing a bank of resources.

Awarded to Dr. H. Murdoch.
Anticipated completion date: September 2013

An investigation of the impact on self-identity of the diagnosis of Usher and the extent to which the diagnosis alters the perception of self and / or the intended life plans of people with Usher

A diagnosis of a condition like Usher syndrome can have a huge emotional impact on a person and their family. So what impact does the timing and the manner of identification of Usher have on the self-esteem of individuals and their adjustment to a future that incorporates dual-sensory loss?

Towards the end of adolescence and in the early years of adulthood, the key developmental task for all individuals is to identify who they are and who they want to be. 

For people with Usher syndrome, in addition to an existing hearing impairment, the likelihood of progressive visual loss may compromise the developing sense of self and confidence in their anticipated life plan.

The project will examine the lives of people with Usher syndrome at different stages to help to understand their experience of diagnosis and the impact this has on planning for life and identity.

The proposed research is timely for a number of reasons: changes in attitude to disclosure to children; the possible introduction of more sensitively targeted genetic diagnosis; screening in relation to cochlear implantation, and the impact of the internet.

Awarded to Dr. E. Hodges, University of Birmingham
Anticipated completion date: October 2013

An investigation into the extent to which the haptic method of communication for deafblind people could be used to maintain their engagement with social activities

There is a need to understand how deafblind people are using social haptics – the use of touch, gesture and body space to aid communication – and which, if any, approaches would support the development of this communication method.

One of the difficulties that has been identified as people develop conditions associated with ageing is the extent to which the person ‘within’ is still recognised by partners and carers.

In conditions such as dementia for example, families often report that they have ‘lost contact’ with the essence of the person that they know long before the condition reaches its final stages. It is to be expected that the development of dual-sensory loss in an elderly person may similarly serve to ‘isolate’ partners and other family members from many aspects of the person they had known before the impairments emerged.

It is therefore important to investigate strategies that support the continued engagement of people with acquired sensory impairment in the activities that they enjoyed before their vision or hearing deteriorated.

Drawing upon research related to the psychological significance of gesture, it is suggested that the methods of social haptics might be adapted to support individuals’ ongoing social activities in a variety of contexts through touch rather than hearing.

Teaching such methods to family members and colleagues may serve to support them in maintaining contact with the person despite their sensory impairment and can improve the quality of life experiences for all parties.  

Awarded to Prof. D. Sheffield, University of Derby
Anticipated completion date: October 2012

Download and read the Social Haptics report (PDF)

An evaluation of the factors that lead to older people with acquired dual- sensory impairment (DSI) remaining in the community rather than entering residential care

Demographic changes will result in increasing numbers of older people developing dual-sensory impairments (Robertson and Emerson, 2010). So there is a need to identify how dual-sensory impairment impacts on everyday activities and competence forolder people and the factors that support individuals to remain in their own home and communities.

Understanding these factors will help to clarify the decision-making process that is undertaken prior to an elderly person seeking residential care.

The provision of a range of initiatives that result in individuals and their families being confident that they can be cared for within the community is likely to cost much less than the provision of long-term residential care for those with sensory loss.

This research therefore has the potential to inform funding decisions that consolidate and extend the independence of elderly people with acquired sensory impairment thus enriching the quality of their lives and that of their partners and families.

Awarded to Prof. P. Kingston, University of Stafford
Anticipated completion date: April 2014

First published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Updated: Thursday 11 August 2016