When you find yourself raising a child who is blind, you learn almost immediately how important it is to talk to your baby. Children with visual impairments need language constantly to explain their world around them. We learn to label every sound that stands out and everything our child touches. For somebody that talks a lot (like me), this was a pretty easy undertaking…which came quite naturally.
Then, for some of us (again like me), we learn that our child who is blind has an additional disability. One that makes them upset when they get too much information, or confused when language becomes too complex. At that time, we are told not to provide too much language. Use less words…short sentences…lose the adjectives…get to the point, etc.
To this day, I’m regularly providing labels, but also being mindful of keeping it short. Sometimes, I think I keep it too short. For example, I tend to call every kind of juice simply, “juice.” This becomes problematic when helping my son find his own preferences. Personally, I like apple juice, but not typically tomato juice…unless it is that special morning beverage some grown-ups (like me) occasionally enjoy. Overall, if someone offers me juice, my first question is “What kind?”
Yesterday, we were at an amusement park, and I kept finding myself giving choices that were too vague. “Eddie do you want to go swimming?” was asked, and he immediately said yes. Then, I stumbled over asking if he wanted the wave pool or the lazy river. This became hard because we simply referred to both as “swimming” while he was doing them.
Later, I asked if he wanted “more ride.” Again, he said yes, but I didn’t know if he wanted more “Scrambler” or “Corkscrew” or “Log Ride” or “Carousel.” Each ride was different, and I found I was calling them all “ride.”
As you can see in this picture, he really enjoyed the “Scrambler.” However, earlier he wasn’t a big fan of getting soaked on the log ride because it was a chilly day. More information provided to him through labels would have been really helpful when asking if he wanted “more ride.”
We spent the day stumbling over phrases like, “the one with the up and down horses,” “the one with the water,” and “the one that went upside down.” I felt like I was providing titles for “Friends” episodes, which were always called, “The one with the________.” I’m thinking that providing him with labels while he was riding would have been much easier. This is a park we visit every year, and I won’t make that mistake again…I hope.
Today, I’m working on simply labeling better at home. I’ll start with providing types of cereal instead of calling them all “cereal.” I’m sure he’d rather have his favorite Panda Puffs over Grape Nuts. I know I would! Sometimes I make those judgment calls for him, but he is perfectly able to do that for himself. It’s just another step on the path to independence.