Parenthood is all about nurturing and looking after your offspring. It is never too early to start helping your child toward eventual independent decision making, be it grooming, self-care or self-image.
How to dress? Which colours to wear and which ones to avoid? How to eat without making a mess of yourself or your surroundings? These are skills that most people learn from their parents.
But, parents of a visually impaired child, need to work harder and use more innovative methods than parents of non-blind children. Sighted children can see themselves and learn from their surroundings. They can observe for themselves how others of their age dress and how people behave in public. That is not possible for blind children, so these skills need to be clearly explained and honed by positive reinforcement.
Here are some suggestions for how to begin:
Tell your child the need for washing hands before and after each meal, and after a visit to the wash-room. How often to shampoo hair? The importance of oiling hair, brushing teeth, use of moisturizing creams. Introduce a check-list based on above points, for example:
Brushing teeth: daily twice, once in the morning and once before going to sleep
Shampoo hair: twice a week at least
Oil: once a week at least before shampooing
As the child grows up, they will remember all this for themselves, it will become routine as it is for everyone.
Without seeing how other people dress or act, it is not easy to figure out what you should do yourself. Let your child know you understand that and teach them the skills to enable them to "put themself together" — with hair combed, face, hands and nails clean and clothes properly arranged (shirt tucked in, pants zipped for boys, dress/salwar kameez neat and dupatta pinned in place for girls). Say you expect them to do these things independently but that they can always ask you to check to be sure they have done it right.
Choosing clothes that look good together
Arrange clothes; by putting matching or complementary colours together in the closet or bureau drawers, and labelling them with texture or Braille tags. That way, whatever the child chooses from a particular drawer or section of the closet will look coordinated. And it will also enable them to put away their own clothes in the right place, rather than relying on other to tidy up after them.
Keeping food on the plate when eating
When your child first starts eating at the table, put the food on a plate with a rim that curves up. This will help to keep the food within the centre area of the plate and make it easier to avoid scattering it on the table. And use the clock system to explain where each type of food is, Potato at 12 o’clock, pulses at 3, rice at 8 etc. This will help them to find what they want to eat.
Eat neatly, without making a mess
Keep a napkin at hand while eating. Teach your child how to use a spoon, how to hold it. Correct your child, if they make a noise while eating or eat in an awkward manner, as with all children, they will need to be told to close their mouth while chewing.
On outings, dinners, teach them how to use a knife and fork. You may need to place your hands over theirs at first, to guide them the right momentum to take the spoon toward mouth. For a small child this can even be made into a game. It will get a little messy to begin with but this will improve, especially if you praise them each time they do it with more control.
Let your child feel all different denominations of currency. When you take them out to the market, give them the opportunity to buy things for themselves and to handle money independently. To help them keep track of the different notes you could put those worth Rupees 10 in their right pocket, Rupees 20 in the left and Rupees 50 in shirt pocket. As they grow up they can develop their own methods for handling money, perhaps a wallet with different compartments.
They will also learn, in time, to distinguish between notes using the size, which is different for each value.
All these methods should be used as the foundation stones to build your child’s confidence, ensuring they are able to lead a useful, happy and independent life. Start putting them into practice today and you will begin to see the changes tomorrow.