As a parent of an extremely perfect 20 year old who happens to be blind, (well maybe not so perfect in those teen years, but I am so very proud to be called her mother), I am amazed daily from what I have learned from being her mom. I am not a perfect parent and I continue to learn from my mistakes, just ask my daughter. We all have different parenting styles that work for our families and every family has to decide what works for them. But it is extremely important to give “our” children successful opportunities. Children who are blind need to be successful and as parents it is our job to give them the opportunities to do so, opportunities may “look” different, but that’s what makes our job as parents so exciting. Any parent knows raising a child is hard work. The first years of life brings on so many new things, rolling over, walking, exploring and talking. It’s an exciting time for both the parent and child. The uncertainty of the future and seemingly endless negative experiences are areas that all parents struggle with, not just parents of blind children. Yes life probably will be different than you expected; but it actually is just as wonderful and if possible more exciting. It will be hard at times, harder than most, but so worth the journey. My daughter has taught me so much over the years that I decided to write short blogs of lists of 10.
My first list of 10: The First Years
1. A child that is blind’s hearing is no better or more sensitive than that of sighted children. They may learn to listen better but that does not mean that their hearing is any better. Sometimes too much noise can be overwhelming.
2. Touch is very important for all babies, blind and sighted, and not touching may lead to a tactile defensive disorder. It is very important to play games like patty cake, counting fingers, itsy bitsy spider or even teaching sign language. Children benefit from learning sign, because receptive language is advanced developmentally when compared with expressive language.
3. Give your child time to explore their environment, don’t just make things appear, give your child the opportunities to locate objects such as toys, be careful not to develop the “Fairy Godmother Syndrome” (when things just magically appear and disappear).
4. Explain everything. Tell your child about the color, texture, taste, temperature.
5. Use your GPS in your car for every trip, even when you know the route. Explain the environment every chance you get. Better yet be a human GPS for walks, while making dinner, etc…
6. Music and dance is important for all children. Don’t forget to twirl!
7. Your child is a child first, then blind. So many parents of children who are blind let them get away with everything, lower their expectations, and are lax with discipline, which only results in inept, social retarded people who are blind that no one wants to be around, blind or sighted.
8. It’s never too early to learn to read. Have braille and texture books available. Remember that braille is a code, not a language and the same skills for pre reading apply, like holding a book, turning the pages, following lines of braille or finding the textures on a page. Let your child “see” you reading, children learn a lot from imitation. Learning sounds and numbers are equally as important.
9. Rocking is not normal, nor is pushing in one’s eye. PLEASE discourage at a very early age, the older the child the more difficult it will be as body language is important. It won’t matter how bright your child is when they try to make friends or go into a job interview and is staring at the floor with their head down or rocking back and forth.
10. A positive attitude is very important. Always find a way!