We wanted to share this great article about raising a blind child from our friends Ed Henkler and Kristin Smedley that appeared in THE BLIND GUIDE: Resources for People who are Blind or Visually-impaired:
I think it is typical to feel some anxiety as you await the birth of a child. In spite of all the tests and care, will the child have any problems? When our older daughter was born, my wife and I could both tell something was wrong when the doctor visited us. Happily for us, the problems were all temporary. But I will never forget that initial feeling. For others, the problems aren’t temporary.
So what do you do when your child is born with disabilities? The answer is you adapt. I have heard many parents of children with disabilities say the experience has enriched them. It has strengthened their relationship. And they couldn’t possibly love their child more. Sounds like a positive outcome and I don’t think it’s just making lemonade from lemons. Of course, the stories aren’t always positive. All that really means is life is filled with challenges. But challenges always come with opportunities. Seek the positive and thrive.
Raising a Child Who is Blind takes a positive attitude and some patience but it can be even more rewarding than raising a child who is sighted.
Raising a Child Who is Blind isn’t easy but, with a positive attitude and some patience, it can be even more rewarding than raising a child who is sighted.
Life can be unpredictable…and hard
My friend, Kristin Smedley, has been there. Kristin is the mother of two wonderful young men who were born blind. She’s also the mother of a wonderful daughter but that isn’t the focus of today’s post. This excerpt from her website tells the story.
Kristin’s fun-loving spirit and energetic personality guided her life in the direction of a career in teaching. She fantasized that she would one day be an inspiring third grade teacher, and after earning her degree, she landed her first job in education. But, fate had other plans, and Kristin found herself shockingly dealt a double dose of darkness.
Her firstborn son, Michael, was diagnosed as legally blind when he was just four-months old, despite the fact that she was advised the chances of having a blind child were one in one million. In fact, only 300 children in the United States shared Michael’s genetic mutation.
Once known for her smile, Kristin found herself devastated and angry. Yet fate wasn’t finished. Three years later, Kristin received another blow when her second son, Mitchell, was also diagnosed as legally blind at four months of age.
Humans are very adaptable
As you’ll learn in her wonderful TEDx talk, Kristin figured it out. Her description of what happened reminds me of what I believe to be an ideal mentor-mentee relationship. Some view mentoring as passing along the wisdom of experience. Instead, I see mentoring as more of an equal role with each party bringing value. The mentor has years of experience. But the mentee may have a more current perspective and technical knowledge.
Kristin had no idea what to do but she learned. As she learned, she grew and her boys grew. Continuing from her website: As Kristin found and equipped her boys with the resources to help them thrive, they not only took on the world, but changed Kristin’s perception of blindness. With the right foundation and a multitude of resources and tools, her children have become popular, accomplished athletes, high achieving students, talented musicians, and International Braille competition finalists, as well as typical big brothers to their sighted sister, Karissa, both teasing and supporting her as big brothers do!
Back to Raising a Child Who is Blind
The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired created a marvelous guide for raising a child who is blind. The steps are quite similar to raising a child who is sighted. Perhaps a little more emphasis on tactile aspects and color contrast. The steps start with head control. If you’ve ever raised a child, you’ll know this is a first step for any child, sighted or blind. I’m including the head control section below, so you can see the similarities.
To help achieve head control:
- Provide several short periods daily of supervised prone position.
- While the infant is on his/her stomach, gently lift the child’s head with one hand under the chin and the other behind the head; stroke the back of the neck, and talk in soothing tones to the infant; withdraw manual support gradually, as the infant is able to lift his/her head independently.
- Continue brief periods of prone position, to allow practice of head lifting.
- As head control increases, provide trunk support with a rolled towel under the child’s chest; begin positioning child’s forearms under his/her upper torso, providing support and preparation for independent lifting of head, neck, and chest.