Vision is a critical tool that children use in obtaining information about the world in which they live. Impairment of vision can lead to partial or total blindness. The children without vision will need special materials and attention to develop fully.
Very often a blind child is not able to compete with the normal one. As a result these children may remain physically and economically dependent to a certain extent.
Causes of Blindness
Visual impairment can be caused by the following factors:
A. Congenital Blindness
It refers to a child being born blind. Genetic impairment results in the malformation of vital organs like eyes during the foetal development. Such children learn about their environment through the senses of touch and hearing.
B. Acquired Blindness
In this case the child is not born blind. The child may lose eye-sight on account of some accident. The resulting eye-defect is called acquired or adventitious blindness.
C. Nutritional Blindness
It is the result of prolonged absence of vitamin-A rich foods in the diet. Deficiency of vitamin-A causes dryness of eyes, (xerophthalmia) and impaired vision in dimlight (night blindness). Poor state of epithelial tissues coupled with resulting eye infections causes serious damage to the eyes.
D. Delayed Remedial Treatment
Poverty, ignorance and superstitions are responsible for delayed medical treatment. Lack of proper medical facilities also add to eye related problems. India's blind population forms a major chunk of world's total.
Characteristic of a Partially blind child
A partially blind child is clumpsy, awkward and cautious in his/her movements.
Their eyes may be red, watery, swollen, itching and sensitive to
Child may complain of headache, nausea and blurring of vision.
Child may have squint and appear 'cross-eyed' .
Poor vision makes the child irritable, self-centered and pre-occupied.
Child has fewer opportunities to learn to get along with different social groups. This results in social adjustment problems.
The children become rebellious and aggressive for they have to rely on others to do things for them. This often leads to frustration and inferiority complex among them.
Special needs of a blind child
It is important to render all possible help and attention to the blind child to enable him/her to be independent, self-reliant and economically viable. Physical, social and emotional needs have to be attended with special attention to yield satisfying results.
Physical Needs. Parents of a young blind child have to give special attention to feed and clothe their little one. Children need to be trained to do their daily routine jobs like toilet, bath, dressing and feeding etc. Special effort is needed to help them move around the house without knocking things and hurting themselves. Orientation and mobility training for such children is a must from the early age. These children must be made familiar and comfortable with their bodies and the surroundings they live in. The parents may need to take these children often to the doctors to protect them from diseases arising out of general constitutional weakness.
Emotional and Social Needs. Parents and siblings need to develop special contact by hugging, petting and reassuring the handicapped child when scared and emotionally upset. Constant reassurance with love and tender care will help the disadvantaged child in exercising better control on emotions and feel emotionally secure.
Love, hatred, jealousy, fear, happiness are some of the emotions you are familiar with. A young child has very little control on his emotions. One is able to exercise better control on emotions as one grows. Fear and panic are known to relax the bowels. Emotionally maladjusted children may urinate due to temporary loss of bladder control. Being sad and morose lowers the appetite resulting in poor nutrition and ill health. Children may have spasms and froth at the mouth when they cannot control their emotions.
Every child needs to be loved to feel secure. This enables one to interact in a correct way and with confidence. A blind child's social world is his/her parents. Parents' attitude and acceptance of the disability of their child goes a long way in providing the child with confidence to deal with the routine problems. It must be accepted that total development of the child is slower when compared to a normal child.
The need to love and be loved is strong among handicapped children. The strong bonds of love help the child take bigger leaps in the process of development. Consequently the child will be well-adjusted in his/her social environment. Social and emotional adjustments are essential for disadvantaged children.
Need for Independence. The parents should help the child to explore his/her surroundings and do routine jobs independently. To start with combing hair, buttoning up of shirt and tying of shoe laces etc. may be time-consuming and clumsy. Appreciation will encourage the child to take on new jobs with confidence. The child's need to feel capable can be enhanced by providing vocational guidance for the jobs he/she can perform. This will ensure self-reliance. Have you ever noticed the 'white' stick used by the blind to move around? The stick may be fitted with bell.
Educational Needs. It is possible to educate children with poor sight, total/partial blindness.
Books with big print and desk with proper light are of considerable help to the child with defective vision. Green/grey board instead of a blackboard, unglazed paper and use of soft black pencils improve the visibility for such a child. Handicapped children learn better with special equipment under the guidance of special educators.
Children with severe defects will need to be educated with special tools. Have you heard of BRAILLE? It is a system of reading and writing the letters, numbers and words. The basic Brailler is a six-keyed device like a typewriter. The Braille dots are punched out one at a time from right to left. Children learn to use Braille with ease, once coached properly.
Recorded tapes are being used to impart education to the blind. Blind children need to develop listening skills to better their learning.
Special attention is being given to the blind children in the form of education and training. More employment opportunities provided to the blind adults are an assurance of their legal and human rights.