Early Intervention

  • Children who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy a high quality of life, just like any other child. It takes special skills on the part of the parent, and special services from professionals, to make sure this happens.

    Most of what we learn in the first few years of life we pick up by seeing. This incidental learning is how we discover that the sky is above us (spatial concepts); that the grass is green; that people usually wear shoes to work; that balls roll away but don't disappear forever. Parents must be trained to make this kind of incidental learning intentional; there are training programs available in every state, mandated by federal law. This special training should begin as soon as vision loss is detected.

    Mobility is another important issue in the first years of life. Children who are blind have little incentive to learn to move, because they cannot see that fascinating toy just beyond their reach, or a parent beckoning for them to crawl. It is hard for parents to encourage mobility too, because of a natural fear that the child will get hurt.

    But it is crucial that children who are blind be encouraged to move. The Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation says that "Blind children must lay down a neural 'movement' map in their brains to replace undeveloped visual pathways. The more movement (the more training and practice), the richer the neuronal pathways laid down in the brain." An orientation and mobility teacher can help parents teach these skills to their children.

    While being visually impaired can be difficult, learning alternative strategies for coping can greatly reduce the frustration and lead to a higher quality of life.