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Summer 2003 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Book Review: Helping Children Who are Blind

By Jean Robinson, VI Outreach Family Support Coordinator, TSBVI

Helping Children Who Are Blind: Family and community support for children with vision problems by Sandy Niemann & Namita Jacob is part of the Early Assistance Series for Children with Disabilities published by the Hesperian Foundation. This book is available in Spanish and English for $22. Other translations include Farsi, Hindi, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese. Order information can be found at www.hesperian.org and toll free at (888) 729-1796. Hesperian is a non-profit publisher dedicated to promoting health, self-determination, and empowerment in poor communities worldwide. These communities have little if any healthcare services or educational opportunities so these books are precious resources. The series focuses on the first five years of a child's life, since what happens during this time period has a powerful effect on the child's future development.

Fortunately in this country most of us have some amount of formal education; however, the unique needs of a child without sight are not common knowledge. Have you ever wondered how a child learns to eat, dress, and play independently when he does not see others completing these tasks? This book explains why and how in a very simple, easy to understand language and well-illustrated pictures. The suggested activities can be done anywhere and the materials described can probably be found around your house. The topics include: guidelines for learning activities; finding out what your child can see; activities for birth to 6 months; communication; thinking skills; teaching everyday activities; safety, movement; helping your child know where she is; preventing sexual abuse; becoming a part of the community; getting ready for childcare and school; support for parents; learning to prevent blindness; and thinking about your child's future. The appendix includes child development charts and toys you can make at little or no cost.

The culturally diverse activities described may seem unusual to middle-class society, but they clearly show that knowledge is more significant than wealth to a child's development. Professionals who have frequent experience with a variety of children with blindness tend to forget that family members, especially new parents, don't have a clue about how to teach a child the concepts that she will not learn incidentally like a sighted child. Many folks need the information broken down into small steps in order to integrate it into their daily lives. This book takes the mystery and scariness out of raising a child with a visual impairment. It is written for ordinary people who want to help a child with a vision loss develop all of his or her capabilities.

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Last Revision: August 19, 2003