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Living with Deafblindness

Social Haptics

Touch is perhaps the earliest developing and longest lasting of our senses. Social Haptic Communication is broadly defined as the interaction of two or more people in a social context where messages are conveyed using the sense of touch. These messages (or haptices) may contain, but are not limited to information about emotion, facial expression, to map out the environment or a room layout and describing other visual or auditory information such as art or music.

This system originated in Finland and was created by Dr Ritta Lahtinen and Russ Palmer.

Social Haptics can be applied across the spectrum of language users, from those with highly complex signed or spoken language to those just beginning their journey into language and communication.

Social-haptic communication approach makes the interaction easier and more efficient among deafblind people, family members and friends, interpreters and other professionals. Thus it improves the quality of information for the deafblind person and gives the person more real-time, spontaneous information about the environment around them.

”The more we use our body and touch, the more sensitive I have become in receiving and interpreting touch messages. Touch will give greater quality to our discussions and interactions, without it, the information does not have the true value. It also saves our energy and any misunderstandings. Touch will give me information on how other people are behaving, their feedback, non verbal cues and emotions very quickly. It is very important to have feedback to my responses. This means that I am able to be on more equal terms with other people. For me, touch gives a feeling of security and without contact I feel isolated. Being open towards each other is the key”

Lahtinen, R. & Palmer, R. (1996) Holistic Family Communication.  Spoken Language by Touch is more than just Words. 4th European Deafblind Conference, Expoo, Finland.