When your child is born, they go through several medical evaluations to ensure that they are healthy before leaving the hospital. Vision and hearing tests are both part of those evaluations. This is when most sensory impaired special needs are diagnosed, but sometimes they do develop later. If you have concerns about your child’s vision or hearing, be sure to communicate with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible.
When a child is blind it means that they cannot see what others can see from sixty meters away when they are just six meters away. Blindness in children is usually caused my infection or a genetic disorder, with measles being the leading cause of childhood blindness. Doctors are able to diagnose blindness in children as young as six months old through simple, non-invasive tests. These tests will involve a doctor looking at the structure of your child’s eyes and testing their ability to track a light or colorful object with their eyes.
- Does not make eye contact
- Does not react to bright lights being turned on
- Does not track objects
- Eyes move quickly from side to side
- Wanders randomly
- Appears clumsy
Most cases of complete blindness are untreatable. Seeking early interventions for your child will help them a great deal in learning how to use their other senses to compensate for their lack of vision though. These early interventions will also help you, too, by teaching you how to best support your child and how to teach them. Your child will need additional support in developing balance, spatial awareness, and developing independence.
Children who are visually impaired can see, but not as well as other kids. They may need to get closer to see things and/or may have a smaller field of vision. Their vision is effected beyond the point of just needing glasses, too. Vision impairment cannot be corrected to a “normal” level. This is not very common among children though.
- Eye rubbing
- Sensitivity to light
- Poor visual tracking
- Chronic redness of eyes
- Difficulty focusing on objects
- Chronic watery eyes
Glasses can be beneficial for children with visual impairments, but they will not bring their vision back to a normal level. Occupational therapists can assist you in creating plans on how to best support your child in different areas of learning and physical development. In some cases, depending on the cause of the visual impairment, surgery may be recommended.
Your child’s hearing is tested shortly after birth, which is when most hearing problems are detected. When a child is completely deaf they are unable to hear at all. This can have a major impact on their social interactions and learning, which is why it is so important to seek out assistance as early on as possible if you suspect that your child may be deaf. The most common cause of deafness in children is inflammation of the middle ear. Chronic ear infections can cause permanent hearing loss in children.
- Is not startled by loud noises
- Does not turn towards sounds
- Turns head if sees you, but not if you call their name without them seeing you
- Does not say single words by the time they are 1 year old
There are few options for treating children who are considered deaf. Your child’s doctor may recommend hearing aids if they do have some hearing. If your child has no hearing or very limited hearing and hearing aids do not work, then cochlear implants may be recommended. Speech therapy can be beneficial in helping your child learn how to communicate with others, too.
Hearing loss is a common birth defect, but it can also develop later in childhood or adulthood. It happens when a part of the ear is not functioning as it should. The degree of hearing loss can range from mild to profound, which will determine what types of interventions they will need.
- Hears some sounds but not others
- Isn’t startled by loud noises
- Delayed speech
- Abnormal speech
- Need to listen to tv/radio at high volume
- Trouble hearing over background noise
How hearing loss is treated depends a great deal on the overall health of your child and the cause of their hearing loss. Sometimes, surgery can be used to correct structural problems in the ear. When that is not an option, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and speech therapy would be recommended.
As a parent of a child with sensory impaired special needs, it is important that you get your child evaluated as soon as possible. This will ensure that they receive the necessary treatments and interventions as early as they can, which will dramatically improve their ability to successfully interact with others and learn. It is also important to take care of yourself. Having a child with sensory impaired special needs is overwhelming at times, especially when first learning how to best support them. You will be better able to care for and support your child when you are at your best.
While there are many great things about this site, I can’t share this in good conscience with our deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind special needs community. Middle ear inflammation is not the most common cause of deafness, for example. There is so much great information out there about special needs – why re-invent it?