Physical Disabilities in Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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Child in adapted chair reaching for toy

Reaching for a toy that interests him is hard work for this preschooler due to the restrictions caused by his physical disability, coupled with his vision and cognitive challenges.

Physical disabilities have many different causes. Some that occur frequently with visual impairment are cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy. Some children will be affected in all parts of their bodies, while others may have full use of their arms or legs or full use of one side of their body. Some children with physical disabilities are able to walk unaided, while others may use crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs.

If your child has both visual and physical disabilities, you may find that his gross motor and fine motor skills differ from children his age. Because he has little or no vision available to him to make him aware of the interesting objects in his environment, he may not be motivated to explore the world through crawling, scooting, or walking the way that fully sighted children do. He may have limited ability to move on his own. Therefore, try to find ways to motivate your child to move. Place objects close by for him to explore, and provide whatever help he needs to move toward what he cannot reach.

When a child has a physical disability and must work to maintain himself upright when sitting, standing, or walking, his ability to use his vision to its fullest may be affected. For this reason, it is important to work closely with medical professionals, physical therapists, and occupational therapists to identify the best positioning so your child can use his vision to the maximum extent possible.

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