Cognitive Disabilities and Your Child with Blindness or Low Vision

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Children who have multiple disabilities that involve cognition or thinking have difficulty understanding information and processing it. A common cause of cognitive disabilities is an intellectual disability. It is also possible for a child to appear to have cognitive disabilities because of the combined effects of the other disabilities on your child’s ability to function. For example, a child who is blind and has severe cerebral palsy will be limited in the ability to move and to observe others in day-to-day activities. When your child is taken into a kitchen to help prepare a snack, they may not know about a can opener because they have never seen one, touched one, or used one. But with exposure and instruction, your child may be able to understand how a can opener works, although he may not at first appear to grasp the concept. It is therefore important that a teacher of students with visual impairments be involved in assessing a child with blindness or low vision suspected of having cognitive impairment to make sure the effects of the eye condition is taken into consideration.

Cognitive disabilities often affect a child’s ability to understand social interactions or to recognize what is appropriate and inappropriate social behavior. Children with visual and cognitive disabilities need repeated opportunities to interact with others and receive feedback at their level of understanding of their social skills.

To learn steps in a routine, such as dressing himself or going to the mailbox to get the mail, your child with visual and cognitive disabilities needs many opportunities to practice the steps in the routine. Repetition is essential for learning and so is consistency in always presenting the information in the same manner.

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