University of Edinburgh

Developing Early Skills with the Visually Impaired Child

Presented on Thursday 6 March 2008

An OT and SLT perspective

Julie Orr and Eleanor Douglas, Royal Blind School

Why the need for a booklet?

  • Often asked for advice from other therapists in the community/hospital/children's centres
  • Asked for advice from other professionals visiting children at home, eg; parent counsellor
  • Wanted to give advice in multi-disciplinary format.

OT role with under 3's

  • Assessment and advice for development of motor skills
  • Strategies to encourage play and self-care activities
  • Advice regarding specialist equipment (eg; seating, bathing, toys/switches) and home adaptations for children with additional difficulties
  • Eating and drinking advice can be given from a very early age
  • Advice on strategies for developing communication in a baby with VI from early on
  • Assessment and advice on communication and language development

Aims of developing this booklet

  • Aimed at children age 3 and under, with a Visual Impairment
  • Wanted to produce something suitable for all stages and pace of development
  • Wanted to have therapy based ideas that could be used easily by therapy colleagues


  • Ideas for practical activities that could be lifted straight from the book
  • Clear explanations and no jargon
  • Currently in draft form

Development of motor skills

  • Head control
  • Rolling
  • Sitting up
  • Crawling, cruising, walking
  • Using hands - grasping, reaching, exploring and using 2 hands

Development of self-care skills

  • Washing hands/face/teeth. Reinforce body awareness
  • Dressing/undressing - eg; anticipating lifting up arms to put on vest, pulling off socks and shoes
  • Toileting - introduce potty, explore toilet, describe how to use toilet


  • Encourage exploration of auditory, tactile and visually stimulating toys
  • Describe and explain what toy does
  • Vary play positions and environment and include 'rough and tumble' activities
  • Introduce 'pretend' play
  • Encourage play with similar age children

Early communication

  • Difficulties the VI baby/child may have - faces, sounds, babble, real experiences
  • Talking to the young child
  • Activities to help focus and develop early language skills

Verbal communication

  • Difficulties with participation in real experiences, making choices, initiating interactions, learning from others etc
  • Talking to your young child
  • Activities for developing language

Eating and drinking

  • Early days - building routines, sensory issues etc
  • Weaning - position, communication, food etc
  • Using a cup
  • Finger feeding
  • Feeding
  • Sensory issues

Group actvity

  • Split into 2 groups
  • Select 2 sections (per group) from the booklet and evaluate
  • On flipchart write down comments on: usefulness, detail (enough/too much), clarity, relevance, jargon and any other comments


  • What works best? a) booklet on own; b) booklet and individual advice
  • What contact have you had with therapists?
  • How easy is it to contact therapists?
  • Any examples of models of good practice to share?


Eleanor Douglas (SALT)
Telephone: 0131 446 3112

Julie Orr (OT)
Telephone: 0131 446 3108