Learning that your child has a visual impairment can leave you questioning how you can help them adapt to the world around them and support them. Often, optometrists can help correct the visual impairment, but if it’s a more severe problem, you have to learn how to be your child’s best advocate through this journey.
You and your child are not alone. About 7% of school-age children have some form of vision problem. Common vision problems include nearsightedness, farsightedness, high myopia, astigmatism, ptosis and amblyopia. Each of these may range from mild to severe. Other vision problems stem from the brain or conditions, like cortical visual impairment, albinism, genetics and retinopathy of prematurity.
Regular eye exams can help identify visual impairments, so your child should see an optometrist early on in their life, especially if your family has a history of eye problems. Below are ten ways to support your visually impaired children.
1. Educate Yourself About The Visual Impairment
After finding out your child has a visual impairment, the first thing you should do is learn everything you can about it. Research and talk to doctors about available treatment options, and learn how you can aid your child. Visual impairments are different for every child, so educate yourself and your child about the specifics of their vision problem.
2. Seek Other Parents Of Visually Impaired Children
Building a support system for you and your child is a great way to learn how to adapt your home, social environment and schooling for your child’s needs. You can learn so much from other parents who have gone through similar experiences, and it helps you understand that you and your child are not alone in this situation. Use social media or reach out to your doctor to find support groups for parents of children with visual impairments.
3. Practice Social Interactions
If your child’s visual impairment is on the severe side of the spectrum, make sure you’re practicing social interactions with your child at home and within your community. Provide your child with opportunities to engage with others, explain social cues your child may not be able to see, partner with educators and reinforce reciprocity. Tell them when it’s appropriate to do certain verbal and nonverbal interactions, like handshakes and winking.
4. Verbalize What You’re Doing
Avoid gesturing to your child with a visual impairment. Always verbalize what you’re doing if it’s something that involves them. Encourage your child’s teacher to do the same when writing anything on the board. Additionally, use directional and positional cues as well as descriptive sentences. When you point to something, your visually impaired child may not see it, so always verbalize when you communicate using gestures.
5. Be Confident When Guiding Your Child
A visually impaired person may need help with guidance and navigation. The best thing you can do for your child is to be confident while guiding them. They need someone who knows where to go and how to get them to the final destination safely. When you’re confident of your guiding skills, your child gains confidence as well.
6. Take Them To An Inclusive Playground
Children, no matter their ability level, need play in their life. A great way to support your child with a visual impairment is to take them to an inclusive playground. Inclusivity has become an increasingly important topic, and more playgrounds are being built for children with different abilities. These playgrounds often involve bright colors, which play a role in safety, patterns, textures, safety markings and sound features.
7. Use Natural Light
You may have to make modifications to your home or your child’s room. Children with low vision often prefer natural light that comes through windows. Others may have trouble with any light. Consider adjustable coverings for windows, and change out the lighting in your home. Ask your child what kind of lighting they prefer, and make adjustments from there.
8. Figure Out Their Color Preferences
Again, color plays a significant role in the life of a child with a visual impairment. Your child may have a color preference, just like they might have a lighting preference. Try to use that color for their belongings so it’s easier for them to see what’s theirs. For example, get a toothbrush, backpack and toy bin all of the same color. You can also use color to help your child organize items in their room, like toys and school supplies.
9. Encourage Them To Use Other Senses
Encourage your child to use their other senses, like touch, smell and hearing. This can help them gather information about their surroundings and where things are in their home. You could put a rubber band around their toothbrush or hairbrush so they know it’s theirs. When one sense is gone or impaired, people often rely on their other senses anyways, and those senses become more heightened.
10. Organize Your Home For Safety
Finally, support your visually impaired children by keeping things organized and safe in your home. This protects them from any possible injury and helps them develop basic skills. You can tape down the edges of rugs, keep doors closed, ensure everyone puts away their belongings and keeping picture frames off of the walls so your child can use walls as guides.
Supporting The Visually Impaired
With these tips, you can help your visually impaired child thrive. Just because they have been diagnosed with a vision problem doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of changing the world!