Gaze and tactile sense

Children with Down syndrome and combined sensory disabilities in social interaction with teachers


  • Romy Regina Prochnow Eikholt Centre for Deafblindness
  • Lill-Johanne Eilertsen Signo Resource Centre / University of South-Eastern Norway



children, Down syndrome, hearing impairment, interaction, gaze, tactile sense


Background: Visual and hearing impairments are common co-morbid conditions for Down syndrome (DS). Combined sensory loss can present major communication challenges, which affect the opportunities for equal participation, learning, and development. This article focuses on facilitating social interaction.  

Method: The study uses conversation analysis based on video recordings of naturally occurring interaction during various activities in school. The sample consists of five children with DS and combined sensory loss and their teachers.

Results: The results indicate that the pupils use gaze and vision actively in interaction with adults and respond actively to the other’s communicative use of gaze. Gaze is an important resource for the pupils and is strategically used to regulate, orient, and establish attention, but also to express interest and intention.

Discussion/conclusion: Despite the pupils’ visual impairment, eye contact plays an important role in their communication. To optimize meaning-making and communicative participation, it is important to have knowledge of the individual child’s specific sensory and communication challenges as they occur in social interaction. This will increase the opportunity to uncover pupils’ communicative strategies, resources, and tactile preferences, which in turn are prerequisites for the facilitation of participation, learning, and development.

Author Biographies

  • Romy Regina Prochnow, Eikholt Centre for Deafblindness

    Romy Regina Prochnow works at Eikholt, a national resource centre for people with deafblindness. She is a trained inclusive education pedagogue and art therapist in Germany. In recent years, she has immersed herself in the study of psycho-motor skills and has completed a master’s degree in visual educational science.

  • Lill-Johanne Eilertsen, Signo Resource Centre / University of South-Eastern Norway

    Lill-Johanne Eilertsen is a senior adviser at the Signo Resource Centre and is an Associate Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway. She is trained as a teacher in special needs education. Her PhD concerned peer interaction between children with and without hearing impairment and complex needs, focusing on participation and inclusion. Her research interests include atypical interaction and inclusive education. The Signo Resource Centre offers services for people with deafblindness or hearing impairment in combination with other disabilities.


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How to Cite

Prochnow, R. R., & Eilertsen, L.-J. (2024). Gaze and tactile sense: Children with Down syndrome and combined sensory disabilities in social interaction with teachers. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 15(2), 92-118.