Routines for Children with Blindness or Low Vision

Routines are an important part of any child’s life because they help children develop a sense of stability and order as well as give children the information and experiences necessary to complete tasks with increasing independence. They’re especially important for children with blindness or low vision, who often have difficulty observing what’s going on in the world around them. When things are predictable—when the same things happen in a certain order at a certain time of day—children are reassured that the world is a safe place to learn to make their way. Routines can also give children essential information about what causes lead to what effects, can help them develop patterns of behavior, can help them develop skills in sequence from beginning to middle to end, and can help develop confidence as whole processes.

Step-by-Step Sequences

As you probably know from your own experience, many daily activities are based on step-by-step routines. For example, there’s your child’s “getting up” routine, which involves taking off pajamas, putting on underwear, then socks, then play clothes, then shoes, followed by combing their hair. All these steps are part of a logical routine—a sequence of steps that fit together around a central theme.

The steps in a routine may be second nature to you but not to your preschooler until your child has learned how to do each step in a systematic order. Doing the same series of steps each time you begin an activity—and telling your child what you’re doing and why you’re doing it—is one way to help learn routines. Perhaps you begin each outing to the park by giving your little girl a hat to wear, and then putting on sunscreen, and then packing a small bag with extras like snacks and water. For a child who’s blind or has low vision and can’t learn by simply observing others, this kind of structure can provide the reassurance of knowing what’s going to happen next. At the same time, repeating the steps can help build skills and self-confidence.

Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Your child gets to practice motor skills each time they zip the zipper on a jacket or tie shoe laces.
  • If your child has some vision, they get to practice using it to see where their favorite seesaw is.
  • Your child gets to learn about concepts. Is the bag with snacks on the table or in the refrigerator? What comes first, second, and last in getting ready to go to the park?
  • Also gets to learn words as well as concepts and practice using them. There’s a pond in the park; there’s water in the pond; you can touch the water in the pond.

Patience Is Essential

It takes a lot of patience to teach, watch, and wait for your child to complete tasks such as dressing or the steps involved in putting silverware on the kitchen table. You could do it much faster, but it’s so important to give allow the time your child needs to finish at their own pace. It’s equally important to let your child know, in words or with a hug, that they succeeded.

To help your child learn a routine, first, look at the steps they need to do. For example, to help you set the table:

  • First, show where to find the utensils.
  • Second, be able to recognize spoons, forks, and knives.
  • Third, be able to count how many of each to bring to the table.
  • And then, to complete the task, learn where to place each setting of fork, knife, and spoon. You can help your child learn by explaining why setting the table is necessary and what is involved in doing it and then by demonstrating.

Develop Routines

  • Look at your child’s steps and pick one or two new ones to teach. For example, you may need to show how to put toothpaste on a toothbrush, rather than you doing it.
  • If your child can’t remember what to do next, you can prompt them to do the next step. First, try a verbal prompt like, “What do you need to pick up next,” and if that doesn’t work, you can pat their hand or arm for encouragement. Sometimes you may need to do something together physically. To avoid your child’s becoming dependent on you always telling the next step, once you see they can do a step, decrease—or “fade”—your assistance.
  • Think about how you can use color and high contrast in your home for your child.
  • If your child is blind or has low vision, it will be helpful to use braille and textures in their routines.

The simple, everyday routines you teach your child can now serve as building blocks for learning more complex skills and be a strong foundation for future learning, maturity, and independence.