Visual Impairment: How to Help Your Child
If you find that your child is visually impaired, your next question may be, “What can I do to help my child?” In addition to seeking out appropriate medical specialists early, intervention programs such as Early Start can help. All children ages zero to three years that meet eligibility requirements are able to access these programs. Through Early Start, you receive case management services from a social worker who helps you connect with community services that meet your child’s needs. To learn more, visit our section. Getting Started Birth to Three.
Each state has an Early Start program as the federal government mandates that they provide early intervention services. However, each individual state administers their programs differently. If you need to access these services, contacting your local office of education is a good place to start. In California, the local administrators for Early Start are the Regional Centers or the County Office of Education.They provide the means to intervention through state and federal funding at no cost to you.
If your child is over three when vision impairment is diagnosed, then services are provided through your local school district. A vision impairment specialist (VIS) or teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) may provide the services. Which professional serves your child will depend on which program serves your child. Regardless of the title, the VIS or TVI will perform a functional vision assessment to help determine goals and a plan for your child. This process can often take two to three sessions to complete. It includes obtaining information from you as well as observing your child in his or her environment. An intervention plan comes from this assessment. The VIS or TVI works directly with both you and your child to meet goals for your child.
Techniques may include:
- Using appropriate lighting
- Trying hand-under-hand techniques or hand-over-hand techniques. For either technique, you work from behind your child, so your hands and hers are moving in the same direction. If she is young, you can sit her on your lap. If she is older, you can sit behind her or next to her and reach your arms around her.
- Setting up the environment to help your child best use the vision she has
- Providing learning opportunities during routine actions, such as bath time or diaper changes
- Using touch cues to help your child learn transitions
- Trying a variety of other techniques, which depend on your child’s unique needs and where she is in development
Remember that vision is a crucial part of your developing child’s learning. Early intervention helps give your child the best chance to take advantage of his learning environment and progress to his fullest potential.