Gloria: Less is More

04/03/2013 12:53

Over the past few months, I have found myself thinking of the phrase “less is more,” especially when I provide technical assistance for students who are deaf-blind in school and at home.  “Less is more” is a concept used in many fields like architecture, music and economics, but I believe it can be also applied to the field of deaf-blindness.

“Less is more” becomes salient as I observe a student who is deaf-blind struggling to keep up with the demands of a full schedule of therapies, doctors’ appointments, and educational services.  In addition, there is often a tendency on the part of the service provider to privilege the quantity of the inputs rather than the quality, which can result in a rushed approach to the session.  And imagine dealing with all of this on top of trying to have some kind of “regular life” with your family, while having your main senses for accessing the world --vision and hearing -- impacted, and in many cases while also struggling with additional disabilities and health conditions.

I have observed several different kinds of reactions from students in response to being over-scheduled.  Some students become passive, always waiting for someone else to determine what will happen next, as they have become used to others having control over their routine without acknowledging their preferences.  Or consider the case of a student who may suffer from anxiety from not being helped to anticipate the next activity and from experiencing what seems like a constant flow of events, or those who may become confrontational as a primary way of expressing their frustration and distress.

For now, I would define “less is more” as simplifying the student’s routine by presenting fewer activities so that the student has the opportunity to grasp, process, respond, and therefore truly learn from the experience. This approach will allow the student an opportunity to process events and create meaningful connections, while the adult will be able to respond more sensitively to the child as there will be more time for full awareness of the student’s responses.

“Less is more” may encourage the educational team to observe the student’s behaviors more carefully and define with more precision a particular student’s preferences and strengths.  This will help guide the team in determining what to keep or let go in terms of how many activities and the goals each activity is designed to achieve, allowing the student the opportunity to achieve a deeper learning experience within each activity or task.

In the context of “less is more” students who are deaf-blind may:

-Feel safe by having the time to understand who is with them, where they are at any particular moment, and where they are going to;

-Have the time and the tranquility to understand the cues and other forms of communication given by others and by the environment;

-Have the opportunity and calmness to respond in whatever fashion the student can;

-Carefully do the activity with the adult or on their own the best the student can;

-Truly learn as the students have the time to appreciate the different activities;

-Feel less overwhelmed as they can go at their own pace and take breaks from the experience whenever needed;

-Be joined in an activity by a communication partner at a pace that is comfortable for the student so that there is more meaningful interaction;

-Experience not only the activity, but also the transitions between them so that the students have the time to know when an event is beginning or ending, and when a new one is coming up.

I welcome any comments or experiences on this concept of “less is more.”


Topic: Gloria: Less is More

Date 06/08/2013

By Ryan Odland

Subject How rewarding can "Less is More" be to deaf-blind students?


Gloria, the author, brings up an intriguing topic for discussion. There are some pieces in this article that I could agree with regarding deaf-blind students in their youth and some I disagree with in regards to decreasing number of activities to benefit the child. To start somewhere, I can definitely endorse that deaf-blind children are often over-scheduled with therapies and specialist appointments on top of their school studies. It is oftentimes difficult for the families to accept the fact that their child has some hearing and vision limitations, progressive or not, and they expect to be top of things in the medical venue.

Truth be told, the current trend we are seeing in deaf-blind children being laboratory patients from the day they are diagnosed to have dual sensory impairment distract us from recognizing their true potential as contributing members of our society. Needless to say, doctor appointments and therapies can be beneficial at times but they should never be made against the child's wishes. If the child desires it, then they will find the balance in academia to do well in their studies. Do not, I implore this, decrease the child's school activities in volume to accommodate the gratification of the families.

Why -- one might ask -- shouldn't a parent ask for less activities for her child? Stagnant as a result of limited external stimulation is dangerous and can have an everlasting impact on children. If a child receives less stimulation, his or her brain will acquire less skills to function normally on the par with other children. Skill acquisition is critical at young age and if parents desire to see their child to receive post-secondary education, they need to make wide berth of opportunities available to the child.

If one should doubt my words, I recommend to review research done on children (hearing not deaf-blind or deaf) on their performance level by comparing them on types of activities they participate in.

-Ryan Odland

Brief Bio: I have a master's degree in Elementary Education and Deaf Education from Gallaudet University and a bachelor degree in Psychology from Rochester Institute of Technology. I am Deaf-Blind -- profoundly deaf and legally blind with 5 degrees of residual vision remaining. My current aspiration is to obtain a doctorate degree in educational neuroscience with specialty in deaf-blindness.