Would you like to analyse and improve the possibilities of deafblind people? Then this is the programme for you.
The Master's degree in Deafblindness is a unique programme
during which you acquire theoretical and methodological skills.
These skills will enable you to analyse the impact of combined
visual and hearing impairments (“deafblindness”) on
development, daily functioning and quality of life. You will learn
to apply this knowledge in the contexts of research, assessment and
intervention. The programme is especially interesting for those who
are already working as professionals and who would like to expand
their basic knowledge and research skills.
The programme starts with the course Introduction to people with Deafblindness. In this course, you will learn about fundamental developmental processes, including topics like early symbolic communication embodied cognition, and the acquisition of sign language.
After the introductory course, students receive coaching in methodology. You will also perform a practical training and write a learner's report. In addition, you will carry out research and write a Master's thesis.
Joao Canossa - Director of Rehabilliation Services at ARCIL, Portugal / Language Therapist
I am the Director of Rehabilitation Services at ARCIL, Portugal. At this same organization, I also work as a Speech and Language Therapist, mostly with children with developmental disorders and/or disability at the Early Intervention level. As a Speech and Language Therapist, I mostly work with individuals with complex communication support needs, in many cases due to disability.
Having experience with children and young people with multiple disability, autism spectrum disorder and severe intellectual disability amongst others, I started searching for training that would enhance my skills in this field. I intended to specialize in communication and in providing the appropriate support for individuals with more complex communication support needs.
When I studied at the RUG I continued to work as a Speech and Language therapist and the expertise gained in the Master Communication and Deafblindness turned out to be very helpful. As a director, the knowledge, attitudes and skills related to Education and Social Sciences are also useful, enhancing my ability to analyse and reflect my options.
The research component of the Master was very interesting and useful, especially because it motivates us to use Qualitative Methods and study a specific subject in depth. This way, I became more critical and demanding with quality in research and capable of developing good research projects, academically and in my work place. I am also more aware of diverse methodologies for research and how to use them in my daily work.
You learn how to analyse communication in complex situations and how to stimulate progress.
My name is Caroline Lindstrom. I am from Sweden and I work in special education for a Swedish organization that provides services for people with congenital deafblindness. Some of my Nordic colleagues completed the Master's programme in Communication and Deafblindness in Groningen. This is how I heard about the programme. It is the only programme in the world which focuses on deafblindness, and is a truly international programme with lecturers and students from all over the world.
I stayed in the Netherlands for only a month, and subsequently followed the programme from a distance. After a month-long intensive study programme, the students leave Groningen and write their reports and theses from their home countries. You have regular contact with your supervisor and classmates online. Every year in March you meet with supervisors and fellow students again. I believe this set-up works very well and is beneficial to international students, since they are able to return to their daily activities quickly. Many of the students combine work and studies, and that means that you have to be strict in order to stay focused on the programme. I recommend setting a schedule which gives you time both to write the thesis and to focus on your profession.
I was very happy to find that there is a Master’s track wholly focused on communication and deafblindness. What I value most is the strong link between the practical field on the one hand and the literature and theory on the other. Most of the students have practical experience. This results in an interesting mix of perspectives which enrich the learning environment. The programme improved my understanding of methodological skills and different interventions which aim to improve communication.
The programme is interesting and useful for everyone interested in communication. You learn how to analyse communication in complex situations and how to stimulate progress. The programme is especially interesting for people who are already professionals.
Saskia Damen - Assistant Professor Ortho Congenital and Early Acquired Deafblindness
The Master's track in Deafblindness focuses on the specific problems that people with deafblindness encounter. We look at the consequences of deafblindness on the development and functioning of people in order for them to participate in society.
My name is Saskia Damen. I am the curriculum coordinator of the Master’s track in Deafblindness, organized by the department of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences. I am also an assistant professor at the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences. So I give lectures, I supervise students and I also conduct research. My research mainly focuses on deafblindness.
What is deafblindness exactly? Deafblindness is a rare condition. We use the term to mean the combination of vision impairment and hearing impairment. This means that a person does not need to be totally deaf and totally blind to be called deafblind. They could also have partial hearing or be partially sighted. This group is very diverse; there are people who are born with deafblindness but also people who become deafblind later in life and even when they are elderly. In the Master’s track, we mainly focus on people born with deafblindness.
What is the Master’s track in Deafblindness about? The Master’s track in Deafblindness focuses on the specific problems that people with deafblindness encounter. We look at the consequences of deafblindness on the development and functioning of people in order for them to participate in society. For example, what support do they need and what kind of specific educational programmes would they benefit from?
Can you give an example of a research project in deafblindness that you are working on? I am currently involved in a study on people with Usher syndrome. People with Usher syndrome are born with auditory disabilities: they are deaf or have partial hearing. They gradually become blind later in life because of the disease. This syndrome was only first discovered as people started to develop visual problems. Nowadays, we have the possibility of genetic testing. So, in the Netherlands, babies who are only a few weeks old undergo hearing tests. If they have hearing disabilities, their parents are offered the opportunity to have a genetic test to see what the cause of the hearing impairment is. What we then see is that parents realize that their child will become deafblind when they are still very young, even while still babies. This creates a huge need for support for those parents and for people with Usher syndrome themselves. As part of this study, we developed a guide for professionals on how to support children with Usher syndrome, as well as their parents.
How did you end up in this specific field? I think I started to become interested in children with disabilities when I was quite young and I worked as a volunteer at a summer camp. At this camp, there were children with disabilities. I was so fascinated by them and thought this could be a topic for me to explore. That was a reason for me to follow a degree programme in Special Education. During my degree, I did an internship in the field of intellectual disabilities. This is the field that I am most interested in because I like investigating complex problems. I also came into contact with people with multiple disabilities, such as vision and hearing impairments. I was fascinated by that! After I graduated, I began working at an organization [name?] to gain some work experience. They managed accommodation for people with congenital deafblindness. I saw this combination and was fascinated by it, so chose to focus on this group. As soon as I began working there as a professional, I immediately started to research the topic because I was so interested in it. At a certain point, the Master’s track in Deafblindness was established in Groningen and I was lucky that my workplace allowed me to enroll for it. I became acquainted with Professor Marleen Janssen and, later on, I was able to do a PhD with her as my supervisor. After that, I started working as an assistant professor.
can students expect from this track?
Master’s track in Deafblindness is unique. We possess an
international group of lecturers who are very engaged and
experienced. We also have an international student population, so
as a student, you will meet people from all over the world. We
really support interaction and collaboration between the students
so they can learn from one another and learn about different
cultural perspectives. Because it is such a small group, the
students get to know each other and the lecturers very
Students are also provided with a lot of supervision. The majority of the track takes place through distance learning. The first month begins with lots of lectures in Groningen. These weeks are very intense. Alongside the lectures, there are many assignments and students collaborate in groups. After this month, they each go back to their home country and begin their internships and thesis projects. Distance supervision is provided through the University and we make individual appointments with each student. The students can also pick their own thesis topics, which is quite unique. This is a very interesting opportunity, of course, for those who already work in the professional field, as they are able to do something that is relevant both to them and the organization they are working for.
Where do alumni usually end up? In a wide variety of places. Some alumni have actually become directors of schools and organizations. Others have gone onto jobs relating to educational psychology, where they are responsible for coordinating interventions and assessments for students or clients. Many alumni also end up in jobs supervising others, such as staff who directly work with people with deafblindness. Or they become consultants and advise parents and professionals. Positions in communication coaching, for example as speech or language therapists, are also very popular.
What is your advice for students considering following this track? Let yourself know! Because it is such a unique and small-scale track, it is important to examine whether it would suit you well. If you are enthusiastic about the prospect, please don’t hesitate to contact me and we can discuss the details of the track and whether it suits you.