You are your child’s first and best teacher. No one knows your child the way you do. You know what he needs when he cries or makes certain facial expressions. You know what makes her happy, anxious, fearful, or confident. Only you can offer your child this expertise. It is the first step in beginning the educational process for your child and seeing yourself as your child’s teacher.

Your baby’s cries, her “goos,” her physical gestures are her language. It’s the way she communicates nonverbally with you. You respond with verbal communication in your words to her, the tone of your voice. Your actions are the beginning of her language development, and the communication of her needs to you. It’s “early intervention” and “education.” Your child learns that when she cries, you will respond; it’s one of the first cause-and-effect relationships a child learns.

You understand your child as no one else does. Even though you may not realize it right now, you are the expert, and you will be called upon to offer your expertise to help educators and medical professionals care for and teach your child.

Take time to cuddle your baby, play verbal rhyming games, and allow your child to play with soft toys that make squeaky noises. Put on some children’s music and sing to your child or with your child. Keep rhythm with your baby, using his feet or hands to make marching and drumming motions. Laugh and make funny noises, respond to any response you receive from your child. It’s natural!

While you and your child are laughing and singing, you are practicing “early intervention.” Everything you do together in play is a learning experience for both of you. Early intervention, done by parents with simple play, intuitive touches of love, or banter of words and sounds, is a natural process between parent and child. It happens as a matter of course. It’s how all babies learn.

It is no different with your child who has a visual impairment or other disabilities. What is different for the child who is visually impaired or multiply disabled is the importance of this type of play. Any activity that provides your child with sensory experiences—involving her senses of touch, sound, smell, and taste—to create a reaction as a direct result from her action, helps her understand from her earliest experience that she is capable, productive, and able to do what others can.

Susan Singler
Mother of a 24-year-old son with retinopathy of prematurity and additional disabilities
Nashville, Tennessee