By Emily Coleman

A term we throw around in education is “pre-teach.” You might be wondering what that even means, or how it applies to your child who is blind. Basically, pre-teaching is a way to prepare kids for what’s coming next. So, if you’re taking them on a new adventure, it’s a way to “set the scene” so that they can be ready to enjoy the event when they arrive.

Kids who are sighted can often enter a new place, take a look around, and have a fairly good grasp of what to expect. For children who are blind, they need a bit more of an introduction. For example, if you’re going to a movie in a theater for the first time, there is likely some preparation to be done so your child can feel relaxed when you get there. I’m going to use the movie example to walk you through my tips.

  1. Explain the situation. Simply talk to your child about what a movie theater is and what happens there. Be patient, and answer questions as they come up. Try to describe as much as you can with as much detail as you can.

  2. Provide an example. Find a book about going to a movie or make up a story of your own. Have a friend or sibling explain to your child a time when they went to a movie. They can talk about what they liked and what was the best part.

  3. Practice at home. Have a “movie night” at home and pretend you’re at the theater. Hand out “tickets” and make popcorn. If you don’t have a descriptive audio DVD, ask if they want you to provide some background information about the visual effects. If they do, this is good practice for you both to determine how much is “too much” information.

  4. Let your child make some choices. Let them pick the movie. If they hate musicals, don’t make that their first theater experience. Let them decide on snacks, seating, and whatever else is up to the viewer. The more choices your child makes, the more in-control they will feel and the more comfortable they’ll be in the new setting.

  5. Arrive early! If you get to the theater ahead of time, you’ll be able to explore before the crowds come in and the lights go out. Let your child climb the stairs, feel the seats, and find out where the exits are. Let them experience how big the theater is and also where they can find a bathroom!

Exposing children who are blind to new activities and events help them determine their own interests as well as what they don’t like.

This also helps build social connections with other kids their age. Now your child can talk to others about the movie experience and can understand when others are talking about a movie they saw over the weekend. Additionally, if your child watches a movie that is popular with his/her peers, your child now has a common experience and perhaps interest as his peers, which makes building relationships that much easier.

For this example, everybody goes to the movies sometimes, and your child shouldn’t miss out! Next time you have an opportunity to take your child someplace new, give these five tips a try. It really will help them…and you!