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The term "Total Communication" was coined by Roy Holcomb in 1967, and refers to the use of more than one mode of communication with a deaf person. The original expectation of TC was that teachers would use whatever method was most appropriate for a child. In the 1970s and 1980s, TC became the bridge between the oral philosophy (lipreading and speech) and the manual philosophy (sign language). TC is important in the bilingual-bicultural ("bi-bi") philosophy as well.

Total Communication's main benefit is that it allows the deaf child to choose their preferred mode of communication. Its chief limitation, though, is that it tends to become simultaneous communication, which results in a loss of information for the student. It is also difficult for an entire classroom to be engaged in TC, because each student may prefer a different mode of communication.

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