Interacting with Visually Impaired

Children with visual impairments are children first. Here are some tips that may make it easier for you to relax and enjoy any interactions you may have with a child who is visually impaired.

  • Unless the child can easily recognize your voice, gain their attention by calling them by name and identifying yourself by name.
  • When you are talking, children with visual impairments may not show much expression or may turn away. This does not necessarily mean that they are not listening.
  • It is all right to use words like “look” and “see” and names of colors, even if the children are blind. Those are words that they will hear and need to become familiar with.
  • Some children may need extra time to think and respond. Talk at a reasonable rate and volume and be patient, allowing that extra time as needed for children to respond.
  • Let children know before you touch them, make an unusual sound or walk away from them.
  • Name and describe people and objects to help children be more aware of who is present and what is happening.
  • Remember that children with visual impairments probably cannot see your facial expressions or gestures or interpret your body language; however, your words, touch, and tone of voice can convey a clear message.
  • When you take children to an unfamiliar place, describe important features such as doors and large pieces of furniture. Describe other features and objects in relation to these “reference points” as you help or encourage them to explore (“The ball is on the floor in front of the door.”).
  • Encourage children to be as independent as possible, rather than rushing to do things for them, including navigating with their canes. If you are unsure if they need help, just ask.
  • If physical guidance is needed, use the “sighted guide technique.” With sighted guide, children grasp the arm of the person assisting them just above the elbow, or wrist if the child is small. The sighted guides move forward about one-half step in front of the child, guiding the child gently and describing where they are going. The guide can be either on the left or right side.
  • Encourage children to interact with their peers and not just with you or other adults.
  • Help children to anticipate upcoming activities and events. Explain the activities and allow them to touch or walk through activities before they try them when possible. It is helpful to bring children to objects rather than bringing the objects to the children. Like all children, many children with visual impairments like to explore on their own.