How to communicate with a visually impaired child

Communication and being able to express yourself in conversation, is an important area of development for all children. Those with a visual impairment will need a little extra support but they’re just as capable.

All children are natural communicators from the moment they make a face, smile and utter their first cry. Children with sight loss will need extra support to develop communication and learn about cues to support them in this.

It’s never too early to begin exploring ways in which you can support your child’s development of the ability to communicate.

Communication is not only about learning to talk, there are nonverbal, physical means, such as body language and touch.

In order to allow a child with a visual impairment to understand and communicate appropriately, you need to give consideration to the following:

  1. Make sure the child knows of your presence. If the child does not recognise your voice, tell them who you are.
  2. Always use the child’s name. This will reassure the child that you are speaking to him/her.
  3. Tell the child when you are leaving. This will allow the child to keep track of who is in the room and give him/her the same information as the other children.
  4. Touch for attention if necessary. This will allow the child to understand without verbal language when it is appropriate to join in.
  5. Speak clearly. Some children with a visual impairment may not see body language and facial expressions to help them to understand a situation.
  6. Give verbal warnings. Inform the child before an event as they may not pick up on visual cues, ie,tidy up time, parents arriving etc.
  7. Offer clear descriptions. When walking into a strange room, food on a plate, a new toy etc.
  8. Explaining situations. By explaining the surroundings and events taking place, it allows the child to have a better understanding of the subject, i.e. a group of chatty children, noisy machinery in the road etc.
  9. Let your child initiate conversation. Giving options is important so they get to choose and think. If they initiate something, for example, reaching out for an object, praise them and talk about it. This will encourage them to be active in their discovery.

The wider the range of communication options your child has an opportunity to try, the more likely they will be to find systems that allow them to share their thoughts with others.

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