Ways to Help Visually Impaired Infants Reach Milestones

The American Foundation for the Blind estimates that 21.2 million Americans are visually impaired, which means they have trouble seeing or are blind. Visually impaired infants are likely to reach milestones later than children with normal vision 1. Head control, communication, interaction, body awareness and object identification are some of the skills likely to be affected. If your child is visually impaired, you can take steps to help her reach milestones 1.

Head Control

According to BabyCenter, a baby typically gains full head control around the age of 4 months. Visually impaired infants often have delayed motor skills. Help your baby develop head control by placing him on his back on your lap while supporting him with both hands behind his shoulders so his head does not fall back, then raising him slowly into a sitting position. When he is able to bring his own head forward, hold his hands to ease him into a sitting position. Shaking a rattle or playing a musical toy at the side of his head will also encourage him to turn his head.

Interaction and Communication

Early Intervention Support recommends simple strategies to develop interaction and communication 1. Keep your hairstyle and makeup the same to encourage visual interaction. While you are feeding your baby, whether by breast or bottle, humming will encourage her to look up at your face. Alternate sides when feeding, even if bottle feeding. Keeping your face no more than 10 inches away from her face and forming lots of different facial expressions will make communication productive. Black and white toys stimulate a newborn baby's retina development, but beware of causing sensory overload 1. Introduce bright colors with lots of contrasting shapes for toys, nursery bedding and wall decorations as your baby gets older.

Body Awareness

Encouraging a visually impaired child to touch his legs and feet each time he is dressed helps him accept them as part of his body and learn to move them intentionally. Pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Lea recommends helping him bring his toes up to his mouth and clap his cheeks with his feet. Dangling a large ball or similar object directly above him will trigger his desire to grab it with his hands and feet, developing his concept of space.

Object Identification

A visually impaired infant finds it harder to identify objects than a child with normal vision, who can look at an object from different angles and process the visual information alongside his sense of touch, says Dr. Lea. Help your child touch the entire surface of an object with her hands. If she drops an object, help her to pick it up again. If you pick it up yourself and hand it back to her, she will think of the object as an extension of your body and not a separate entity.