Having a child in the family who is deaf and blind requires special education, communication and play. Most deaf-blind children are not totally deaf, nor totally blind. The term is a reference to vision loss coupled with hearing loss. In most instances the child has some usable sight and hearing. Developing activities for your deaf-blind child will demand that you utilize his other senses and encourage the use of the sight and hearing he has.
Safety is a major concern when doing activities with your deaf-blind child. Make sure her play area is free of clutter she might hurt herself on or damage. Place objects on your child’s highchair, wheelchair or on the floor or table close so she can reach them. Objects should have no sharp edges and be easy for her to grasp. Let her find the object and explore it with her hands. You may want to try putting an object inside her shirt or pant leg. Always avoid areas of her body that she finds sensitive. To encourage use of her remaining sight and hearing, hide bright colored and textured objects or noisemakers and place them on a lighted surface.
Water, Water Everywhere
Activities that stimulate your child’s other senses are ideal. Water is a warm and soothing medium that you can enjoy together, according to a 2005 paper in the International Congress Series. Take a bath. Ensure that your young child is supervised, and let her splash and dunk a toy or washcloth. This serves two purposes, getting clean and playing. If you have access to a pool or beach, let your young one wade in the waves or dig in the sand. Let him poke his toes in the wet sand or dig with a shovel. Swimming is another excellent way to get exercise and stimulate the senses.
An activity for two or more kids is an adaptation of the game Twister, taken form a 1996 article in the journal Deaf-Blind Perspectives. Take a large bedsheet and draw various shapes on it, such as hearts, diamonds, circles and squares. Use different colored glitter and glue the glitter on the shapes. For the spinner, do the same, matching up the shapes and color of glitter. Add Braille to the spinner so your child can read it. This serves as a tactile and body awareness game that uses brightly colored areas. You will need to sign the shapes to your child, but let her do the rest in finding the colored shapes on the Twister mat. She can also be the caller with some help from an interpreter.
Play With the Wind
An activity that helps your child explore his environment is just being in the wind. If he’s younger, let him sit on your shoulders on a breezy day and feel the wind in his face. Or make him a kite and let him fly it with your help. For younger children, place their chair in front of a fan and vary the speed of the breeze. And a favorite for all kids of all ages, put him on a swing. He may be a bit frightened at first, so start with him sitting on your lap and gradually work into flying higher.
- National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness: Early Interactions With Children Who Are Deaf-Blind
- Tennessee Department of Education: Special Education
- International Congress Series: Favorite Activities for Deaf-blind Children
- American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.: Adapting Games, Sports, and Recreation for Children and Adults who are Deaf-Blind
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images