The topic of vision is one that I hold near and dear to my heart; that is, ever since my middle child was found to have low vision at the tiny age of 8 weeks.
He looked adorable in his tiny, round ‘Harry-Potter’-esque glasses. People would stop us on the street and tell us how cute he was; in the same breath, however, would bethe question: “Why does such a young baby have glasses?”
Life was hard back then, especially not knowing exactly how much he was able to see. I had a special calendar in my kitchen that just marked off his service providers; it was a revolving door for quite some time.
In the early months and years of my son’s life, I felt an overwhelming desire to have control over some aspect of this scary-seeming and unknown entity that was before us. I probably purchased all of the high contrast toys on the market! I also had to juggle my older daughter’s needs, and, a little less than a year-and-a-half after my son’s birth, my youngest daughter and all of the care that went into an infant.
Looking back at those years, I realized how much time I consciously put aside to work on his vision. While I think that the dedicated time helped significantly over time, I wonder how much easier it would have been to look at every-day tasks that we did on a daily basis, and put a visual component into the activity.
Here are a few examples:
1. Going to the park: While free and exploratory play is critical, you could always have your child (and a peer) step on certain colors throughout the playground, jump over whatever ‘cracks’ or lines that they see, etc.
2. When your child is reading or writing, you could adjust their viewing angle by using a 3-ring binder (rings opposite the child), a cookbook stand, or a formal slant board.
3. Flashlight tag: ever hear the words, “I’m bored!” Well, flashlight tag is a great activity that could replace screen time while working on visual perceptual skills. All the players need are flashlights. One flashlight tags the other. I’ve also had kids use flashlights to find objects I’ve asked them to find in a book-the light acts as a visual focuser.
4. Eye-Spy Books: I have a ton of these books around the house. What I like about them is the varying levels of difficulty. When I need a few minutes to make dinner or during a cool-down at the end of a session, I have kids read these.
5. Books with a message: When my son was first given an eye patch to wear once a week for 12 hours, he was very self-conscious. Something that really helped him was reading books where he was able to identify with characters going through a similar situation, including My Travelin’ Eye and The Patch. The second picture was actually taken at the end of a school day where Yosef asked to bring the book for his teachers to read to the class. “Mommy,” he confided, “The kids all want a patch like me now.”
6. The Mundane: I’ve learned to make the most of the mundane. For example, on the way home from the bus, my kids and I often take turns playing “I spy with my little eye…” They balance on the curbs on the route home. The other day, my husband told my son that he could have all the change he could count. He just started playing with the small Legos, graduating from the duplos. Last week, he measured a half a cup of oil that went into muffins. Think of all the visual motor and visual perceptual work going on!
Plus, because this is ‘real life’ and every day, once I became attuned to the opportunities to incorporate visual motor integrative work consistently, I have begun to see progress (while devoting less ‘structured work time’ taken away from other activities).
More importantly, I have seen his confidence grow. He wants to do more and more things independently (and I’m learning that it’s not only ok, but great).
A weight is slowly being lifted, for now. While I’m feeling light and positive, I’m going to take this opportunity to have a coffee, watch a little TV, and order some take out.:)
I hope that there is something that you can take away from this post, no matter what type of difficulty your child may have. I urge you to try, as best as you can, to integrate what is being worked on into daily life, so that you can maybe, just maybe, free up some time to be you. Without guilt. Knowing that you are amazing.