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Weathering the Storms: 9 Strategies to Address Temperament Difficulties in Young Children with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities

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An excerpt from the book, Essential Elements in Early Intervention: Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities, Second Edition, edited by Deborah Chen

Research with infants and toddlers with visual impairments indicate that some children demonstrate behaviors that inhibit positive interactions with caregivers, and make caregiving more difficult, such as:

  • lack of facial expression
  • negative vocalizations
  • difficult body postures and movements, such as throwing the body back and waving the arms

A child's temperament influences the nature of the caregiver's interaction with him or her. The following are some suggestions for supporting children who have difficult temperaments:

  1. Develop predictable daily routines so the child can become familiar with them and learn to anticipate what happens through a variety of sensory cues. This can include objects or pictures as appropriate for the child and the situation. For example, the smell of soap and the feel of a washcloth can be used to signal bath time.
  2. Identify a child's preferences (types of food, toys, activities, and people) that can be used to motivate a child to participate in new situations or as reinforcement for cooperation or following directions. For example, encouraging a child to walk toward a particular table to obtain a favorite musical toy.
  3. Provide sufficient time and support for the child to become comfortable and familiar with a situation or activity.
  4. Use prompts as appropriate for the child's learning level and abilities, particularly to support participation in a new or disliked activity. Prompts can be verbal (specific words or short phrases), auditory (a sound), visual (a gesture, picture, or object), tactile (an object), or physical (touching the child).
  5. Use praise that is specific and meaningful and builds the child's language ("You ate the orange all by yourself!") rather than general instruction praise ("Good job").
  6. Reduce environmental distractions (sounds from the radio or TV, or other people talking) to help the child pay attention to a task or activity.
  7. Modulate the level and amount of sensory input to match the child's sensitivity to sounds, movement, and touch. Some children enjoy loud rough-and-tumble play, and others prefer quiet activities.
  8. Interpret the child's behaviors as communication and respond promptly and in a way that the child can understand. For example, if a child begins to fuss, respond by acknowledging the child's feeling by imitating the child's facial expressions or saying, "You're mad." Offer reassurance by physically comforting the child or singing a favorite song.
  9. Consult with other professionals as needed. For example, consult with an occupational therapist or dietitian if a child continues to reject new foods or has a limited diet.

book cover for Essential Elements Predictable activities and social interactions, and accessible physical environments that motivate the child's interactions, exploration, and persistence promote the child's learning AND the level of satisfaction experienced by families.

For more information on temperament, and working with young children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities, order Essential Elements in Early Intervention: Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities, Second Edition, in the AFB Store.

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