BACKGROUND : Language and communication difficulties of young children with visual
impairment (VI) are ascribed to intellectual disability, multiple disabilities and autism spectrum
disorder (ASD) rather than their sensory impairment. Consequently, the communication
difficulties of children with VI may have been underestimated and undertreated.
OBJECTIVES : This report aims to critically appraise recent peer reviewed literature relating to
communication and language development in children with VI.
METHOD : A systematic search of the literature (2003–2013) was completed using the PRISMA
guidelines, and primary and secondary search phrases. Nine publications were reviewed in
terms of the strength of recent evidence. Thematic analysis was used to describe the early
language and communication characteristics of children with VI.
RESULTS : All the selected articles (n = 9) were from developed countries and
participants from seven of the studies had congenital VI. Five of the studies received
an evidence level rating of III while four articles were rated as IIb. Two main themes
emerged from the studies: early intervention, and multiple disabilities and ASD. Language and
communication development is affected by VI, especially in the early stages of development.
Speech-language therapists should therefore be included in early intervention for children
CONCLUSION : Recent evidence on the early language and communication difficulties of
children with VI exists, but children in developing countries with acquired VI appear to not
be investigated. The identified language and communication developmental characteristics
may assist speech-language therapists to build a knowledge base for participation in early
intervention for young children with VI and their families.