Helping a Blind Child become Independent

Helping a Blind Child become Independent

In general, when a child is born blind, parents have a sense of overwhelming grief, fear and a lack of understanding of what to do. This birth is "different" and they are very unsure. One tendency is to do everything for the child. When this occurs, children do not learn the basic skills to move around and do for themselves. If children are sighted and everything is done for them, they can "watch" to see how to do something, if they ever so desire. However, blind children MUST touch the environment and interact with it in order to understand it and learn how to "DO" life.

Many parents may do too much because it is faster for them to do it. But children are slow "at first" and as they do skills, they become faster. That is true for all of us.

Many parents have such guilt of their child being blind that they over compensate by doing "EVERYTHING" for the child, not realizing that they are hurting the child's chances of being "normal" having friends and being able to do for themselves, becoming independent later on.

The last scenario is the one I deal with often. High School students come to me, who have never made a meal, cannot cut their own food, can never be left alone because they would not even know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They do not even know how to carry their books, hang up their coat and get ready for class because their parents have insisted that a para educator be next to them all day long. The student cannot even go to the bathroom by himself or herself. But on a cognitive scale, this child is of average intelligence and has every capability of being independent. Many times this situation will be made worse because the para that was hired for the child WANTS to do everything for the child also because they feel sorry for him/her. Pity kills—kills the spirit and soul….be there no doubt.

Some children completely give into this and just become dependent all their lives. Never going on to college, or a job or living out any potential dream deeply buried within them.

Others and this is most, in High School start to really resent their parents and those around them who refuse to let them do anything. What they did not realize was that all those years they let someone else "do" for them –but then they NEVER wanted to clean a toilet or sweep the floor, so gave in to their parents doing everything for them; they never gained the skills to do what they wanted when the time came. Parents must make this decision as children are in general too fearful or lack desire to confront them on their lack of participation in daily life activities.

When children asks to go on a major High School field trip over days of time, the answer has to be "no" because they have no ability to get around by themselves, or even organize themselves enough to know how to pack, unpack or get ready for bed and wake up and get dressed without constant attention.

Some will go onto training centers for the blind if they get angry enough about their lack of abilities and these people go on to accomplish their dreams. But those who just stay angry or resigned go on to do very little.

A highly skilled teacher of the blind can get this situation turned around. The introduction of technology is usually the first step, as students have great success fast in learning how to accomplish and do their own work. They start to gain the confidence in doing more and slowly but surely start to learn those independent skills. Once the parents start to see the success, they now understand their child can do anything they desire. Hope grows, vision changes and they start to see a new picture of possibility.

We can either make a society of independent people or not. Be careful how much you "do" for anyone. Are you really helping or hurting. If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he eats for a lifetime!!!!

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