What Is the Total Communication Approach?
Roy Holcomb coined the term “total communication” in 1967 as a philosophy rather than a method. TC involves using one or multiple methods of communication based on the specific needs of a child. For example, while one child might only need sign language to communicate, another child may need spoken and written communication.
TC was originally intended for educators to use the most suitable communication method or a combination for certain children at particular stages of development. In educational environments for deaf children, simultaneous communication is often used. Most of these schools and programs have backed the philosophy since the 1970s and 1980s.
Who Chooses the TC Option?
Along with teachers, families may use TC. Interaction with others is part of the learning process, and it’s only possible when the individuals can communicate with understanding. More than 90 percent of parents of deaf children can hear, so a majority of them believe this philosophy allows for flexibility without restricting any options. With this approach, every family member, whether deaf or not, has continued access to communication. Also, the quality of the child-parent relationship depends on the quality of the communication between them.
Teachers who use this approach are obligated to learn the skills necessary to meet the communications needs of every child. This may require that they use software or other materials such as PDF documents from publishing companies that train individuals in sign language and other ways to communicate with deaf or learning-challenged people.
What Benefits Does TC Provide?
The primary advantage of the TC approach is that it opens up all methods of communication to deaf children. Although parents and educators could be hesitant to use one form of communication, TC allows for combinations and for deaf children to choose the mode that is optimal for a certain situation. According to research studies, the benefits can affect all aspects of the development of deaf children, including their academic, linguistic and psychosocial development.
What Restrictions Come With TC?
One restriction of this approach is that it’s not always practiced correctly. Many deaf students become immersed in simultaneous communication that doesn’t match their linguistic ability or readiness. TC frequently becomes a simultaneous practice that combines sign language with speech, which could cause those who are communicating to change their messages to adapt to one form of communication. This usually compromises both modes.
Additionally, teachers are restricted as to the number of communication methods that they can use at a time. This makes it very difficult for them to meet the communication requirements of each deaf child in one classroom.