Babysitting for Blind Children
10 Tips for Babyitters Caring for Blind Children
Caring for a child with severe to complete vision impairment can be intimidating at first. It’s important to remember that the basic needs and desires of a blind child are the same as any other; they still want to play games and feel special to the people around them. Here are some of the most important things to remember if one of your charges is vision impaired.
- Always Put Things Away – For blind children and adults alike, one of the biggest facilitators of mobility and functionality is the ability to confidently navigate their home. Even the smallest objects have a place of their own, which allows the sight impaired to find them and move around them without incident. When you straighten up your charges’ home, be sure to put everything exactly where you found it. If the kids in your care are old enough to speak clearly, ask them anytime you’re unsure of the proper place for something.
- Provide Tactile Stimulation – Soft, fuzzy stuffed animals and plush toys with interesting textures are a good way to provide the tactile stimulation your charge is craving, especially when they’re infants or toddlers.
- Let Them Lead the Way – Older blind children will have a much clearer sense of what they are and are not capable of. The introduction of new activities that they may not be able to participate in could frustrate the child, so let them choose most or all of the games and activities.
- Talk About Everything – Because the child in your care can not make the connection between what an object looks like and what it does, it’s important to explain everything that you do. Even with very young children, it’s a good idea to establish communication by talking about what they’re experiencing and how they feel.
- Take Advantage of Bath Time – Bath time can be a great opportunity for sensory stimulation. The texture of washcloths and soap, the slipperiness of toys when they get wet and the fluffiness of a warm towel are all things you can talk about and explain.
- Dancing to Establish Vestibular Sense – Vestibular sense in sighted children is the ability to understand where a part of their body is in relation to space by seeing it. In children with vision impairment, this spatial sense is completely different. To help your charge develop this sense, gently bounce them or dance with them in your arms to music with a very clear beat, being sure to stay on rhythm.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions – If you’re unsure about anything, arrange to come over early in order to interact with the child while the parents are present and to ask them any questions you may have. Don’t feel awkward about asking; parents would much rather answer your questions than leave their child with someone who isn’t confident about how to care for them.
- Your Charge is Not Broken – It’s important to never treat your blind charge as if they’re broken or damaged. Making them feel as if there’s something wrong with them is likely to cause feelings of insecurity and fear.
- Get Physical! – It’s natural to be apprehensive about engaging in physical play with blind children, but being physically active is just as important to them as it is to sighted children. In uncluttered areas that are free of obstacles, encourage your charge to jump as high as they can, to crab-walk and to perform other physical movements.
- Keep an Eye Open – Because your charge can’t see obstacles in their path, it’s up to you to keep your eyes open. Always make sure that no doors or cabinets are left open for them to run into and that all rugs are lying smoothly along the floor so that there are no curled edges to trip over.
When caring for your visually-impaired charge, be sure that you provide the least amount of help necessary in order to encourage independence. You definitely should never ignore them or allow them to find dangerous situations, but you also shouldn’t “baby” them. It’s a good idea to ask if they need help before rushing to their rescue. Keep in mind that all parents will have different ideas of how they want their child to be cared for, so always follow their rules to the letter.