Getting to know your child’s capabilities

All children develop in their own way, but your child’s vision impairment may have an impact on some areas of their development. Being aware of your child’s capabilities means you can support them and help them to develop skills, at their own pace.

Language development

Your child’s language development may be delayed because:

  • The meaning of some naming words is harder to grasp if you can’t see them. For example, the meaning of mountains or the sea. You can help your child by providing more explanation. If you have access to a computer or iPad, you may be able to enlarge pictures for them to see detail
  • They may stay longer in the developmental stage of repeating things you have said to them. All children go through this stage; for a child with vision impairment it may last a little longer.
  • Your child may not pick up visual clues to be able to predict or understand the meaning of language. For example, they may not understand that it is lunch time until they hear the cutlery drawer open. You can help by giving them physical objects to prompt, for example, giving them a sponge when you say, ‘Bath time.’
  • You can help reduce confusion by limiting your word choice, so that you are labelling the object they are touching. For example, saying ‘cup’ when they are holding a cup.


Social and emotional skills

Children with vision impairment may take a little more time to understand and develop social skills because:

  • They may miss non-verbal cues such as body language, eye contact and expressions. For example, they may not pick up on cues that a child wants to play or has had enough of the game, or they may stand too close to other children.
  • If a child with vision impairment can’t see when it’s their turn to speak or play, they may unintentionally interrupt others or take another child’s toy when in a group.
  • Other children are unpredictable and a child with vision impairment may be taken by surprise, for example, if another child runs off suddenly as part of a game.

Make sure your child has appropriate boundaries. For example, they may be used to touching the faces of family or friends to say “hello” and need to learn that this isn’t always appropriate with a stranger.

You can help and support your child with all of the above by quietly explaining what is happening.

Physical development

  • Your child’s physical development may be affected by their vision impairment as they are less able to learn by copying other children. You can help by showing and teaching physical skills e.g. hopping.
  • Your child may know that a chair is for sitting on but not how to sit on it. You may need to show them, e.g. facing the correct way or not lounging in the chair.
  • Children are motivated to move by seeing a toy out of reach, so a child with vision impairment may crawl or walk later and be less confident in their physical movement.
  • Uneven terrain, changing surfaces and open spaces can be disorientating, for example, a concrete path that changes to grass. Playing on lots of different surfaces at home and practising a route around school can help build their confidence.
  • They may take a little longer to learn self-help skills such as using a knife and fork, using a spoon or turning on a tap to wash their hands. Repeat showing them how to do these things for as long as they need and let them have lots of practise.
  • To help them find things, you could encourage them to search for their own belongings. For example, keep their things in the same place – their trousers in the top drawer, their socks in the bottom drawer and so on.

RSBC tip

Don’t worry! Your child will learn and do all the things they need to enjoy life, but they may need a little support to do so.

Published: December 2017  

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