Body Language of Deaf-Mute Children


Here we shall also say something about the play of deaf-mute children, which is not based on a conflict but on cooperation. The analysis made according to the impressions from the rehearsals for the performance “Little Mermaid”, conducted by the dramatist Igor Simonović, who also directed the play.

Play offers the possibility of the development of more complete interpersonal relations than speech. Through play deaf-mute children literally become an organic community. What they cannot express in words or song, the children express through body motion: it becomes the main means of understanding, expression of thoughts and emotional response. Hence children have a need for constant motion whereby their whole body is activated. Play offers children the possibility of giving meaning to a physical motion and direct emotions towards the establishment of interpersonal relations. Since there is no language as an objective form they can relate to through listening and speaking, disabled children repeatedly create by their bodies symbolic forms which make the language they use in communication. In play, the grammar of physical motion on which the structure of understanding in the group is based is spontaneously established. The body language expresses the personality of the children in a much more complex and adequate way then it is achieved by voice, since they participate in its creation with their whole being. Hence a number of layers in their relations and such a peculiar personal expression. Most importantly, their body language is a direct expression of their emotional and spiritual charge. They are not capable of lying, as is the case with children who treat the spoken language (also) as a means which is to conceal their emotional state, since they cannot create from body expression such an external form that can be misleading. This is the essence of their spontaneity, openness and naiveté… At the same time, this is the biggest obstacle for the children to be pushed into the mould of a role that restrains the manifestation of their authentic individuality. It is much harder for them to be “somebody else” than it is for the children who can speak. This is of utmost importance for determining the performances the children are to play. It is much more difficult for them to act, since their whole life is already “acting”, as they are necessarily oriented to a dramatic body expression. While children with normal speech faculties express their emotions in a louder or lower voice, faster or slower speech, harsher or softer words, through screaming or singing, disabled children express variety of emotions and degree of emotional charge through grimaces and unarticulated speech sounds, as well as through the dynamics and dramatics of the body motion. For them, the ability to control the body motion means the suppression of emotions, spirit, imagination, while the lavishness of body movements directly conditions the possibility of the development of their relations. Since with the body motion it is much harder to adequately and precisely express thoughts and emotions, their movement is often characterized by confusion. At the moments of emotional tension the group feels panic. The children constantly turn one to another and follow their friends’ movements in order to understand what they are trying to say. They have a need to relate to the space in such a way as to be able to see at every moment what is going on not around them, but in front of them. Hence they spontaneously try to organize the scene in a way which will enable them to establish a frontal intimacy. It is of utmost importance, since children are then sure they can control the activities on the scene, which means that they understand each other all the time. The space must always be in front of them, and the play, scene and light are all adapted to that. Those dear children do not like to be in the shadow. Nor should they ever be. Nowhere.

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