Future Reflections Spring 1999, Vol. 18 No. 1


What Can You Do For Your Multiply Handicapped Blind Baby?

by Sheila McElhern


Reprinted from a 1998 issue of Steppingstone, a publication of the Long Island Parents of Blind Children.

Hold your baby and talk to him face to face. Make eye contact even if your child can’t. This provides vision stimulation and places the child in a position to reach out and touch you. It encourages imitation and adds to the bond between you.

Stimulate all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. This is best accomplished by including your child in everyday activities. Bring her into the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, etc. Talk to her about what you are doing. Let her touch things before you use them: her diaper before she’s changed; her washcloth before she’s washed; her spoon before she eats.

Movement is good. Gently sway, rock, and bounce your baby. Wait in between and see if he gives you some indication that he would like to continue.

Comment on baby’s movements. Respond to her sounds with words. If your child is hearing-impaired, touch her to respond to movements and sound.

Tell your baby what is about to happen before you begin or end an activity.  

Avoid clutter; it’s confusing. This is true of clutter you can see and clutter you can hear. Don’t provide more than two or three toys at a time. Don’t have the TV or the radio on at the same time. If your child is playing with a sound toy or you are singing to him, turn the TV or radio off.

Pay attention to your child’s reactions. If he’s over-stimulated, he’ll let you know by tuning out, turning away, and pretending he’s asleep or crying. Try to end activities before your child has had enough of them.

Encourage your child to play on his belly (unless there is a medical reason not to.) If he doesn’t like this, start with him lying facedown on your belly. Sing to him and rub his back. If he’ OK with this, place him on his belly every day for as long as he will tolerate it. Place one or two toys near his hands.

Avoid being overly protective. Take the baby out, as health permits, to any place or function that you would take any other small child. This allows the child to be exposed to language, touch, tastes, and smells and allows for more varied social interaction.

Choose one to three favorite songs, poems, or stories and do them every day. This will help develop your child’s memory as well as interactive skills and help to stimulate speech.

[Editor’s Note: Never place an infant to sleep on his or her stomach; if he or she falls asleep this way, turn him or her onto one side or onto his or her back. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that infants under one year of age placed on their stomachs to sleep run a higher risk of succumbing to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).].