Free time for our kids is what we make it. Our son Matthew is eight and was born totally blind and left with mild to moderate developmental delays. We’ve spent a lot of time and will continue to spend a lot of time defining his “free time.” There is very little he can learn and do on his own, but the time we put in allows Matt more rewarding free time and allows us more of our own free time.

First and foremost, find help, google it, it’s out there. We’ve gotten resources through the Commission for the Blind, our school Perkins School for the Blind, NAPVI, Lions Club, the ARC, health care assistance, state disabilities programs, autism programs, etc. Most importantly, talk to and train, if necessary, family and friends.

What works for us is our choices bin and board. In our choices bin, you can find cards with both an object and the meaning (in braille and written). Every time we find a new activity, we create a new card and add it to the binā€”ask others to be creative. This allows Matthew to “see” his choices and remember all the things he can do. We like to pull out a collection of choices and Velcro them to his choice board, and you’ll see why we have to do that based on the list. Here is the list of activities we have cards for currently:

Free Time Activities

AloneWith someone
Book (read)Color /crafts
Books on tape (some are home-created social stories)Bake
Digital reader (Braille & Talking Book Library) Ride bike (tandem or big wheel)
Bouncy house (small for indoors or outdoors)Braille (homework)
Braille (write a letter/thank you/story)Playdate
KeyboardFootball (yes he catches it and runs)
Phone callGo for walk
Get a snackCards (Go Fish/Uno)
Playdough (practice cuttingā€”plastic knife or scissors)Trouble (Star Wars version with R2-D2 audio)
RestGo shopping or to a restaurant
Spinny swing/hanging ropes (IKEA)Swimming
Toys (placed in one clear area to find favs) Go to the health club
Tub (paints/ shaving cream)Treadmill
iPod (limitedā€”used for rewards)Ticklebug (a favorite with Dad)
CD player (limitedā€”used for rewards)Freeze dance
Stickers (limitedā€”used for rewards)Pretend (talk about pretend people/ places)

Most of our free time is together. We enjoy all activities and have not found any that we don’t make Matthew at least try. The more experiences the better. He’s experienced roller skating, rock-climbing, horseback riding, Kung Fu, bowling, gymnastics, musicals, concerts, amusement parks, skiing, sledding, hiking, alpine slide, team sports, fishing, boating, jet skiing, tubing, and the list goes on. Life is shortā€”make the most of every moment.

ā€”Anita Sullivan, Mother of an eight-year-old boy who is blind and has mild to moderate developmental delays