How Babies Learn
Babies with limited or no vision have other ways of understanding and learning about the world:
- Exploring with their hands
- Using their sense of smell and taste
- Moving the various parts of their body
- Using whatever vision they have
Touching and talking to babies helps them learn a great deal about themselves, the family, and their surroundings. Dressing, bathing, feeding, and diaper changing are all natural opportunities for that sort of experience. During those times you can:
- Use a wide range of voice tones, inflections, and volume.
- Imitate the sounds your child is making, or say words that sound like those sounds.
- Be specific when talking to your baby so he or she begins to develop a sense of the variety of words. For example, "Let's get that dirty diaper off. Such a wet diaper! Can you feel how wet it is? It doesn't smell very good either, does it? How about some powder? Here, smell it. Isn't that nice? Now you're all clean and dry and you smell so good." One short interchange can plant the seeds for your child to learn several different concepts: wet/dry, clean/dirty, smells that are nice and not so nice.
Encourage your baby to explore objects with her or his hands and learn the feel of different textures. You can build "touch and feel" concepts into day-to-day experiences, such as letting your child:
- Feel the washcloth before you wet it in the bath water and then again after it's wet.
- Feel different articles of clothing as you dress your child and talk about how the materials feel—soft, fuzzy, scratchy, slippery.
- Feel different food textures and taste different flavors—a crisp slightly salty cracker; soft, sweet pudding; liquid jello when it's first made and then later when it becomes solid and jiggly.
Just about every ordinary daily activity provides an opportunity for you to teach and for your child to learn.
Learn more in Reach Out and Teach: Meeting the Training Needs of Parents of Visually and Multiply Handicapped Young Children, by Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Ph.D.