Advice for parents and carers of children who have visual impairments (2 of 2)
It’s never too early to start talking to your child. Babies can
communicate before they start talking and want to interact with people, especially family. By moving her mouth or limbs, cooing, babbling or smiling, she is sharing experiences with you and looking for a response. Toddlers will use some words to communicate with you, but they understand far more than they can say. By talking and listening to them you will motivate them to keep talking, which will improve their language skills.
Booktouch is a free pack of books and guidance materials that aims to give a love of books to blind and partially sighted children of 0-4 years. Visit www.bookstart.co.uk
Clearvision Project is a UK postal lending library of mainstream children's books with added braille. Visit www.clearvisionproject.org
- Give sounds and noises an explanation. Remember your child won’t have seen what caused the noise. For example, it could be a dog barking, a door slamming, a doorbell ringing, or a clock ticking. If an aeroplane passes over and you can hear the engine, say, “oh, listen to that aeroplane”. Do the same if there is a smell in the environment.
- Use coactive movements. Place your hand on your child’s whilst he is doing a movement and talk through what you are doing. For example, when he is having a drink, guide his actions and tell him he is having a drink.
- Children with visual impairments will be much more alert to resonance. Using a drum or beach ball, she will feel the sensation of the vibration. Take turns to use the drum or beach ball, and do it coactively. This will help her learn the concept of turn-taking in conversation.
- At mealtimes, introduce food, the textures, smell and taste. Talk about the food and if it feels hard, soft or lumpy. All the while, you are building vocabulary and helping to give your child a sense of what they will be eating without being able to see it.
- Let your child initiate conversation. Giving options is important so he gets to choose and think. If he initiates something, for example reaching out for an object, praise him and talk about it. This will encourage him to be active in his discovery.
- Encourage your baby to look at you when she is communicating. This might not come naturally to her, as her sight is impaired, but it helps to develop social interaction skills and will quickly become habitual, making it easier to engage with others.
- Encourage smiling, and praise your child when he smiles. He will hear a smile in your voice. By telling him how nice it is, you are reinforcing social skills and ability to communicate his mood.
- Imitating your baby’s noises, such as blowing raspberries and kissing noises encourages her to develop oral motor skills. It helps with development for making speech sounds and encourages turn-taking.