The Multi-Sensory Impairment Specialist Service

Who is the service for?

Who provides the support?

What does the Specialist Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) Teacher do?

What can the MSI teacher help with?

Contacting the MSI teacher

Information about Deafblindness and Multi-Sensory Impairment

Dual-Sensory Impairment

Functional Hearing and Vision

Approaches to Learning

Approaches to Communication

Specialist Equipment and Skills

Useful Contacts

Deafblind Intervenors

Who is the service for?

The service supports children and young people who have a dual-sensory impairment (both a vision and hearing impairment). Support is provided from birth to 19 years of age.


Who provides the support?

A Qualified Teacher of children and young people with Multi-Sensory Impairment (QTMSI) who is a member of

the Low Incidence Team based at Margaret McMillan Tower.


What does the Specialist Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) Teacher do?

The Specialist MSI Teacher may visit children or young people in the home or at their nursery or school and will provide information, support, training and guidance to;

  • The parents, carers and families of Deafblind students and students with dual-sensory or multi-sensory impairment
  • Staff at the nursery or school the student attends
  • Other professionals involved with the student

The Specialist MSI teacher works in close liaison with members of the Support Team for Deaf Children and the Vision Impairment Team.


What can the MSI teacher help with?

Providing information and advice about;

Functional hearing and vision – how the student is using the vision and hearing they have, the kinds of things they can see and hear in different situations

Approaches to learning – how learning can be presented to help the student with sensory impairment to understand

Approaches to communication – ways to help students to learn to communicate when they have communication difficulties because of sensory impairment

Specialist equipment and skills that can help Deafblind students and students with dual or multi-sensory impairment to learn and become more independent

Contacts – signposting to other agencies or organisations that can offer help and advice about sensory impairment and to government guidance about Deafblindness and dual-sensory impairment


Contacting the MSI teacher

If you are concerned about your child’s vision or hearing you should first seek advice from your GP or health visitor.

If your child is supported by a member of the Support Team for Deaf Children or the Vision Impairment Team, their support teacher can make a referral to the MSI teacher with parental permission.

Class teachers or a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) can refer a child to the MSI teacher with parental permission.


Contact details;

Kate Challis

MSI Specialist Teacher

Low Incidence Team

0-25 SEND Inclusive Education Service

3rd floor, Margaret McMillan Tower

Princes Way

Bradford  BD1 1NN

Tel: 01274 439276

Email: kate.challis@bradford.gov.uk


Dual-sensory impairment – children with dual-sensory impairment may also be described as being Deafblind when they have a significant level of vision and hearing impairment or as having a multi-sensory impairment when they also have additional complex special educational needs.


Functional hearing and vision

  • Clinical assessments of vision and hearing are conducted at the hospital.
  • Some very young children or students who have additional complex needs cannot cooperate with these tests and a clearer understanding of what they can see and hear can be gained through observations of how they function in a range of familiar and unfamiliar environments.
  • Sometimes there are reasons why children function better than, or not as well as, a clinical assessment might imply they should. These children may also benefit from functional assessment of how they use their vision and hearing in a range of environments.
  • Functional assessment of hearing and vision uses information gained through informal testing, structured and incidental observations and discussion with family and others closely involved with the child, to build a picture of how they use their vision and hearing and what improvements to their environment, support or resources might help them to access learning.


Approaches to learning

  • Children who have a dual-sensory impairment may find it very difficult to access information in their environment depending on how much vision and hearing they have and how well they can use it.
  • Children with dual-sensory impairment may not be able to use the alternative ways to access information that a child who is deaf or a child who has a vision impairment might and may need highly specialised approaches to learning.
  • They may need to use primarily tactile approaches to learning or to have an individual daily timetable to ensure a consistent and predictable daily routine.
  • Deafblind students may need a significantly higher level of individual support than other students and may require the specialist support of a trained Deafblind Intervenor.
  • Bradford MSI support ranges can be found on BSO and describe levels of need and associated levels of support that can be expected from schools and the support service


Approaches to communication

  • Children and young people with significant dual-sensory impairment may need alternative and highly specialised approaches to communication, including tactile, hand-under-hand signing.
  • Students with significant dual-sensory impairment and additional learning needs may need alternative approaches to communication that include use of Objects of Reference and Touch Cues.


Specialist equipment and skills

Dependent on the severity of an individual’s dual-sensory impairment, they may find a range of specialist equipment helpful, including;

  • Hearing aids or radio aids
  • Low vision aids (magnifiers, CCTV’s)
  • Speech software
  • Braille resources
  • Individual lighting
  • Habilitation aids (vibrating alarms, tactile watches, vibrating water-level indicators etc…)

Useful stockists may be;


Useful Contacts

Useful sources of information about dual-sensory impairment and some specific conditions associated with dual-sensory impairment include;


Deafblind Intervenors

What is a Deafblind Intervenor?

  • An Intervenor is a trained person who has skills and understanding related to Deafblindness
  • Intervenors provide individual support to Deafblind people and people who have multi-sensory impairment


Who might need support from an Intervenor?

  • Intervenors usually work with children and young people who have severe vision and hearing impairment and who have difficulties developing effective communication skills
  • Children and adults who have a dual-sensory impairment but have well-developed communication skills may be more appropriately supported by a Communicator Guide.


What does an Intervenor do?

  • The Intervenor facilitates access to environmental information that is usually gained through vision and hearing, but which is unavailable or incomplete to the child who is Deafblind.
  • The Intervenor provides individual communication using the method most appropriate to the Deafblind child.
  • Intervenors support the development of communication and motivate the Deafblind person to interact with others.
  • An Intervenor enables the development of compensatory skills that allow the Deafblind person to access information from the environment and to be as independent as possible.


Why do Deafblind children need Intervenor support?

  • Children with dual-sensory impairments face very particular challenges in all areas of learning and interaction
  • Without intervention they may not access the incidental visual and auditory learning other children can and may become withdrawn and isolated as a result of sensory deprivation
  • They may not be aware of interesting things and events around them because they miss the visual and auditory cues
  • They may need to develop highly individual communication systems, including use of tactile signs and/or objects of reference


How many Intervenors should work with a child?

  • Many children with multi-sensory impairment need to gain confidence and trust before they  can begin to accept new experiences, to explore new sensations and to interact with others. A secure and trusting relationship can be vital to nurturing the confidence needed to engage and explore.
  • Provision of two or three trained staff may enable continuity in case of absence and, with close liaison, allow for a consistent approach but using more than two or three staff is likely to confuse the child and hinder the development of secure and trusting relationships.
  • Maintaining a consistent approach to communication becomes a complex task when large numbers of staff are involved and the use of even slightly different communication approaches is likely to be highly confusing to a child who already faces many obstacles in developing effective communication skills.


Does Intervenor support lead to increased dependence?

  • All children are supported as they develop their understanding and ability to work and learn independently.
  • Children with multi-sensory impairment need individual support to help them to gain independence where possible.
  • A skilled Intervenor will recognise when to support and when to withdraw to allow a child to function independently.
  • A trained Intervenor will model processes and enable the child to gradually increase their level of engagement, interaction and independence.
  • An Intervenor is also an interpreter for the child with multi-sensory impairment and in many cases will be the vehicle by which they can access increased independence.
  • Without the support of an Intervenor many Deafblind children and children with multi-sensory impairments are far more dependent.
  • For many Deafblind people, individual support will be a life-long need and without it they may become isolated, withdrawn and unable to engage in many daily living skills and social activities.




Page owned by Kate Challis, last updated on 15/02/2024. This page has been viewed 21,678 times.