As your child grows up, she will have goals of her own. They might include healthy relationships, a positive work experience, and involvement in satisfying hobbies and social activities.

Achieving these goals depends on being able to build and sustain connections to other people. If she is anything like most children, she will need to decrease her focus on herself and increase her focus on others. She will need to be taught that others are valuable and have worthwhile things to say.

Specifically, your child will need instruction in balanced conversation and in applying good listening skills that will help her obtain and maintain successful relationships and eventually employment. American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect has a relevant article, “Communicating on the Job.”

Children who are blind may need extra reinforcement to understand the whole picture of a conversation: the purpose of communicating, nonverbal information, and unspoken rules of conversing.

You can teach your preschooler that the general purpose of conversation with a friend is to listen and talk. You could say, “Just as you and I throw the ball back and forth, a conversation is ‘back and forth’ sharing. When it is time for the friend to talk, it is time for you to listen. I want to teach you how to let your friend know you are listening. While people may not spend time talking about the rules for a conversation, there are rules to follow if you want to show you care about what is being said to you.”

Examples of Specific Instruction in Demonstrating Good Listening Skills

  • “Look at (or direct your eyes to) the person talking to you. This shows you are paying attention to her.”
  • “To show Grandma you understand what she is saying, nod your head like this.” Demonstrate and let your child use her hands to detect how you are performing the action.
  • “In a conversation, think about what the other person is saying. Let the person know you understand by saying something like, ‘Oh, okay, I see. Wow,’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ If you do not understand, you can say something like ‘I don’t understand,’ ‘what do you mean,’ or ‘can you say that again?'”
  • “Ask your friend more about what she is sharing. If she tells you she got a dog this week, you can ask if the dog is large or small, if the dog is a puppy, or the dog’s name. Asking more about what your friend is sharing tells her you care and you want to know more because you are interested.”
  • “I was just on the phone with Uncle Kevin. He was telling me about his new job. I really wanted to talk to him about my job, but I realized Uncle Kevin called to talk about his job. Instead of turning the conversation to me, I decided to ask him more about his job.”
  • “When in a conversation, most people are eager to share about themselves. If you talk, talk, talk about your toys, your day, and your life, you leave no room for your friend to join the conversation. Make room for your friend. Share about your day when asked and then remember to ask about your friend’s day.”
  • Ask your child how she knows you are or are not listening to him. Ask which she prefers. Encourage her to demonstrate she is listening to her friends and family.