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Home Programme for Stimulating your Blind Baby

Age 1 – 3 Years Old

Ten Important Tips

  1. Talk to your baby all the time. In this way the baby will learn to predict if you are close or nearby.
  2. As visually impaired babies cannot see you, give a warning before you handle them or put something in their hands.
  3. While you are in the room with VI babies, keep telling them what you are doing. They will become familiar with the sounds that certain actions cause, e.g., opening a tap and the running water, sweeping, shifting furniture, etc. Let them also explore what the broom feels like and even try to use it. Let them play with the dustpan and brush so they can know what you are doing.
  4. Don’t always put things in their hands or take them away. Give them enough time to find the toys or objects themselves. Tell them it is there and encourage them to look for it themselves.
  5. Keep the area where the children can play constant. They will learn where to go to find things to play with.
  6. Create a specific area in the house where their favourite toys are kept so that they can explore on their own.
  7. Choose toys that are noisy, vibrate, have an interesting texture or a pleasant smell.
  8. Allow the children ample time to explore new toys.
  9. Name everything. Tell them what is going to happen so that they can link their experiences with language.
  10. Give lots of time for repetition.

Carrying your baby

  1. On the hip – Make sure you change sides often, and tell them what you are going to do, e.g. ‘I am going to put you on my left hip now.’
  2. On your back – make sure that the baby’s head is not always facing the same side. As you move around with them on your back, tell them what you are doing. ‘I am sweeping the floor,’ ‘I am going to bend to pick something up,’ we are walking through the door to go outside to hang the washing.’ They will learn to associate your movements with the activities you are performing.
  3. Facing forwards
  • One hand between the legs – Change sides often
  • Holding upright with one hand on the chest and one on the hips. Try to see if you can support the chest less over time.

Bonding

  1. The bonding between a mother and her child usually occurs because of eye contact between the baby and the mother during feeding or holding. This is followed by the baby’s first smile and the mother’s reaction to it.
  2. This interaction between the mothers and the babies, is the babies’ first social interaction. Children who are visually impaired miss out on this interaction with their mothers. They are not capable of interaction from a distance.
  3. Babies with visual impairment cannot make eye contact with their mothers. There is, therefore, no ‘communication’ between them. This causes the babies to be passive and to withdraw from their mothers. The mothers may feel that the babies do not respond to them, so they withdraw. This estrangement will lead to the mothers interacting with and handling the babies less often, leading to less social contact.
  4. Because of the lack of sight, it is important that VI babies explore the faces of their mothers or caregivers: it helps the babies to link the sound of the mothers’ voices to their actual bodies, i.e., they come from the same place.
  5. Mothers should Take the babies’ hands and guide them to their faces, telling them: “This is my eyes or mouth or cheek.

Mother talking to baby while feeding and baby touches mother's face

  1. This must be repeated until the babies can reach out their hands by themselves to explore the mothers’ faces.
  2. When your talk or move your face from side to side, the baby will be able to detect the source of the sound – early sound localization.
  3. Early use of both hands together should be encouraged.
  4. If you begin talking to the babies as you approach them, before you touch them and then while touching them and bringing their hands to your face, it will help to build an early concept of the external world.
  5. In this way parent child-bonding will be improved.
  6. Later on, this bonding process can also include other people (father, siblings, family and friends) thus encouraging social interaction.

Stimulate his sense of touch

  1. Babies may not like to touch strange things. They may pull away their hands if you try to put something new in their hands or guide their hands to touch something. However, it is important that they learn to use their sense of touch, developing the ability to discriminate between things by touch. Eventually they will use the sense of touch to explore and to read.
  2. Teach them to explore by using the hand—on-–hand method. Put their hands on your hand and let them feel how you explore something, e.g., stroking a dog or a piece of clothing. Eventually visually impaired children will start exploring things by themselves.
  3. See to it that the toys they play with vary in size, texture and weight.
  4. Put things of different textures in the play area you have created for your baby.
  5. Line the baby’s cot with different textures and auditory toys for random hitting. These toys can also be suspended from a mobile.
  6. Be aware of the baby’s reactions. They may be over-stimulated, cry and become irritable. In that case, take away some of the things and use only one thing until they become used to it.

Baby touching his cat

  1. Keep toy boxes in the different rooms in the house with household items which are appropriate to that room, e.g., wooden spoons and plastic containers in the kitchen, or let them play with the pots and pans, and or the plastic containers. Always keep them in the same place where they can find them themselves. Have hairbrushes, hats, socks and empty perfume bottles in the bedroom. Apply this to the different rooms in the house.
  2. Encourage them to explore during everyday activities, e.g., let them feel their socks, shoes or jersey, where the arm holes are and the buttons, and discuss it with them.
  3. Teach babies to explore unfamiliar items by rubbing them between their hands, on their cheeks and body and holding them in their hands. Gradually allow them to explore by themselves.
  4. Try to encourage them to use both hands simultaneously.

Play with your child

  1. Having a visual impairment has a significant impact on the physical and sensory development of a child.
  2. Do not be afraid to play normal games with your blind child. Allow the child to experience as much movement as possible. The following can be done:
  • Whirl them around
  • Pull them around the house on a blanket
  • Put them on a swing
  • Let them climb up a slide and slide down

2 Year old blind toddler playing on a slide

  • Let them go on a see saw
  • Bounce them on your lap
  • Tumble-play on the carpet
  • Let them bounce on an inner tube or big ball.

Blind toddler bouncing on a tube

  • Let them go on a kick bike and later a tricycle
  1. This article describes how you can play with your baby during the different development stages, preparing them for later sports and recreation.
  2. While playing, be careful that the children do not bump their heads or hurt themselves. They will be scared and scream in the beginning but will soon learn to enjoy it. NB TALK, TALK, TALK WHILE ALL THIS IS HAPPENING, PREPARING THE Children AND EXPLAINING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Motor Planning

  1. Babies must learn about their own bodies and the world around them. They should therefore be allowed to explore their environment. See to it that their environment stimulates as many of their senses as possible. Talk to them all the time so that they can be aware of what is going to happen to them. This will help them to plan and do things in the correct way.
  2. Use their sense of touch when they learn a new skill so that they can be prepared for what is going to happen.
  3. Allow for many repetitions.
  4. Break the task down into small steps.
  5. Gradually move from ‘hands-on’ to independence.
  6. Remember safety precautions.

Fine Motor development

  1. To make their hands stronger, give toddlers things to play with which need a bit of strength to complete, e.g., let them put clothes pegs around a paper plate or around the edge of a yoghurt container.
  2. Let them pop bubble wrap.
  3. Let them play with play dough.
  4. Let them screw and unscrew the tops of different bottles or containers.
  5. Let them sort things such as dissimilar kinds of pasta, buttons, beads, stones, small toys.
  6. Let them string pasta or beads.
  7. Two children sit at a small table and play with wooden puzzle shapes and tower blocks that fit over a mounted wooden peg
  8. This article gives many more ideas to teach your child to play with toys.
  9. This is another article about playing including treasure basket & sensory box.
  10. More Activities for little ones.
  11. This booklet shows inexpensive ideas for creating educational toys and activities for children with a visual impairment.

Independence Training

Family and friends tend to feel sorry for children with visual impairment and do everything for them. This deprives them of becoming independent human beings and has a negative influence on their self-image. We should spend as much time as possible on the development of independence especially in activities of daily living (ADL). These include mobility and orientation, eating, dressing and hygiene. Read more in this Activities of Daily Living guideline.

Here are also ideas for teaching VI children about location and how parents can train early mobility with a long cane.

Bathing

  1. Being naked could be a very overwhelming experience for babies. To make this sensation less frightening wrap them in a towel. Then gently lower them into the bath and remove the towel in the water. Talk to them all the time, telling them what you are going to do.
  2. When taking them out of the bath, again wrap them firmly in a towel and remove the towel limb by limb as you dress them. Always keep at least one hand on the babies.
  3. Draw their attention to the sound of the water running into the bath, the smell of the soap, the feel of the facecloth or sponge etc.
  4. Put a non-slip mat in the bath to prevent slipping.
  5. Give them toys to play with so that they can learn to pour water from one container into another. Let them listen to the sound when water is being poured.
  6. Talk to them, explaining which body part you are washing.
  7. Alert them to what you are going to do.
  8. Give them the opportunity to try to wash themselves as they get older.
  9. Do the same while you are drying them.

Toilet Training

Potty training of toddlers can be quite a difficult task, but it’s even harder when they have a visual disability. They may have a difficult time finding their way to the potty, understanding what the potty is for, and knowing when it’s time to go. While the visual disability may pose some different challenges, that doesn’t mean your toddler won’t be able to use the bathroom. Here are some tips for toilet training your VI toddler.

Dressing

  1. In the beginning the babies are too young to learn to dress themselves. Talk to them while you dress them. Tell them about the clothes you are going to put on. Tell them which clothes go where, e.g. “This is the sleeve, we are putting your arm through the sleeve, and this is your sock which I am putting on your foot.”
  2. As children get older:
  • Let them feel each item of clothing. Lay the clothes out and allow them to explore the texture of the various pieces of clothing. Use the hand-on-hand method to start with, talking all the time. Always put the clothes out in the same order. When they understand and know the various items, ask them to pass you the clothes.
  • Allow them to try to undress themselves, e.g., shoes and socks and coat or jersey.
  • Try to get them to dress themselves, pull up their pants to begin with, and then their socks.
  • Always use the same order when dressing and undressing.
  • Name the body parts as you dress or undress them. Make a game of it.
  • Tell them the names of the pieces of clothing as you dress them.
  • Try to use Velcro and zips wherever possible. Try to avoid tying a bow.
  • This article has many tips about dressing, also children with multiple disabilities.

Eating

When children are a bit older:

  1. Start with finger food such as pieces of fruit or small blocks of bread. Feeding themselves with their fingers will help to fix a pattern of hand to mouth movement. Start out by placing the food in their hand, but they must develop to a stage where they take the food from the dish themselves.
  2. Let them sit holding the plate or container with one hand while they use the other hand to bring the food to their mouth.
  3. In the beginning hold the spoon in your hand and let the child rest their hand on your hand. Sit on the right side of the child and go through the motion of dishing and putting the food into their mouth. Children will soon learn to do it by themselves.
  4. Alternate the hand with which they hold the plate and the spoon.

Helper behind child holding dominant hand with spoon, child's other hand on bowl, which is placed on non-slip mat

  1. Use food that will not spill e.g., mashed potatoes or porridge, to feed themselves.
  2. Use a bowl with an edge to decrease spilling.
  3. Allow spilling as they will never learn to do it if they do not try.

Pouring

  1. Start in the bath with plastic containers.
  2. Use things such as rice, beans, seeds etc. to pour from one container to the next.

Go Shopping

  1. The supermarket is a wonderful place to stimulate children. There are different smells and shapes of fruit and vegetables available. Let them hold and smell the various items while you tell them what it is. Let them count the number of apples or potatoes you are buying. Tell them you are putting the packet ‘behind’ them in the trolley.
  2. Packets of biscuits and cereals have different weights and shapes. Let them feel them.
  3. Dairy products usually are cold, they also have different textures they can experience. Let them hold and feel them while you tell them what they are and where you are going to keep them.
  4. Let them help unpack the groceries when you come home, again talking about everything.

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