While it is incorrect that sitting too close to the television can cause a vision problem in your youngster, a toddler can experience visual impairment for a number of reasons. Any toddler experiences frustrations, tantrums and setbacks during development, but a 3 year old with a visual impairment has added roadblocks to negotiate on a daily basis. As his mother, you desire to give your child the best life possible. Incorporate a variety of strategies on a daily basis to allow your toddler with a visual impairment to experience life without letting his disability hold him back.
Reading and writing is a crucial part of a toddler’s development and preparation for preschool. For obvious reasons, a child with a visual impairment may find these tasks more difficult than her typically developing peer. How can a child learn to read words and letters that she can’t see? The answer is Braille, which is a way your toddler can “feel” the the words with her hands. The raised bumps allow her to learn to read, even if she is unable to see the letters and words on the page. Your local library, bookstore or the Internet are excellent places to purchase or check-out children’s books in Braille, since you likely don’t have piles and piles of them already around your house. While your toddler may not be able to read or recognize many letters at age 3, provide her with materials she will use for learning the reading process as she grows older. This also gives your youngster a chance to “feel” the letter “A.” As she does, say the sound the letter makes so she learns to associate the pattern of bumps with that letter’s sound. As important as Braille books are, don’t limit yourself to only books in Braille — take the opportunity to snuggle up with your toddler, have some mother-daughter time and read her a book otherwise not possible without you.
Develop Other Senses
Because your toddler isn’t able to see well, if at all, it is important to help develop his other senses. He relies on these more than other kids his age because of his lack of sight. Teach him to listen to sounds around him by playing a game where he tells you what he hears in various rooms of the house. You may never have noticed the faint hum from the air conditioner, but your toddler likely will. Also, purchase a variety of age-appropriate audio books or create your own so your child can “read along” to his favorite books. Besides, this gives you a break from hearing the recording of his favorite repetitive toddler song over and over again. To enhance his sense of smell, give him a variety of foods like cookies or fruit to sniff and ask him to guess each one.
It is important to instill a sense of self-confidence in your child, even at such a young age. Teach her that she is just as capable as her friend who can see by encouraging a sense of independence. Allow your child to explore the world around her, and avoid babying her. This doesn’t mean to let your child run wild without supervision, but rather allow her freedom in safe environments. For example, set up her room in a way that is safe and move any obstacles like furniture to the edges of the walls. Never change the layout of her bedroom or playroom without ensuring she is familiar with this change. Successfully negotiating her environment on a regular basis instills a sense of confidence in your youngster that will translate into confidence outside of your own home.
Embrace technology when working with a child with visual impairments. The National Association for the the Education of Young Children supports the appropriate use of technology for any child, regardless of whether he has a disability. A variety of options exist to purchase for use in your home. Computer programs that read text to your toddler allow him to read at the level of other kids his age, regardless of whether the material is presented in Braille. Embossers allow you or your child to type anything you wish and the special printer produces the words in Braille so your child can read the words. Start by printing single letters, unless you have a genius 3 year old, and slowly introduce full vocabulary words like “dog” or “cat.” Help your child with a visual impairment learn to read by printing out the word for everyday items and placing the Braille label on the actual item. Print out the word “chair,” for example, and tape it to the back of your child’s playroom chair. For the next holiday season, help your toddler write his list to Santa and print it out in Braille. Then, show your toddler how each of of the items on the list “feels” in Braille. Even if he can’t read the list, he is learning to associate the words with the word on the printout, which is a crucial pre-reading skill.