Tactile Activities for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

 A boy in a red shirt plays JENGA

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September 17, 2020

Although we might not want to admit it, summer is coming to an end. As we enter the fall the weather will get cooler and the days shorter, we will all start spending more time indoors. For parents this may mean shifting from easily planed outdoor activities to engage in more structured activities that can be done in the house. If your child has vision and hearing loss, you may be concerned that many popular activities will not be accessible or engaging to them. For this fall, the New England Consortium on Deafblindness has created a list of fun family activities along with simple ideas for modification. Check out our list below!

Arts and Crafts

Many children (and adults!) enjoy arts and crafts activities. For younger children it may be coloring books or finger painting, and for older children and teens it may be a more mature activity such as scrapbooking or working with clay. While most arts and crafts based activities are tactile in nature, making them ideal for children with combined vision and hearing loss, there are additional ways these can be adapted. 

Adaptations: 

    Object Placement: One of the first and foremost ways to make an arts and crafts activity accessible to children with combined vision and hearing loss is to keep the workspace consistent. When setting up your child’s materials, make an effort to place them in the same spots each time. This will allow your child to remember where objects are so they are able to locate what they want to use themselves. 

    Secure the workspace: Secure the activity to the workspace to prevent it from sliding around while your child is working! Not only does this help children with vision loss, but it is also helpful for children with disabilities that affect their motor skills. 

    Use Tactile Cues: If an arts and crafts activity is not inherently tactile, such as coloring in a coloring book, you can make it accessible by outline the drawings in puffy paint. This will give your child an idea of where they should color. 

Cooking and Baking

Cooking and baking are fantastic activities for children with combined vision and hearing loss because it engages the sense of touch, smell, and taste. With a few simple adaptations, you can create an at home activity that is not only educational and fun, but leaves you with a delicious treat! 

Adaptations:

    Object placement: As we previously mentioned, make an effort to keep the cooking materials in a consistent location. Doing so will give your child the opportunity to locate what they need independently. If your child is able to access cabinets or storage, you may consider labeling them with tactile symbols or braille.

    Touch: During the activity allow your child to safely explore the ingredients (with supervision) by placing an appropriate amount on their tray or workspace. For example, if your recipe calls for sugar place a small amount aside for your child to touch. 

    Smell: Provide your child with the opportunity to smell the ingredients as well! While your child is engaging with the ingredients, make an effort to label them with your child's communication system. For example, while feeling and smelling the sugar, sign "sugar" into your child's hands.

    Cutting and Chopping Safely: Chopping and cutting can seem daunting and dangerous to most parents, but there are safe ways to give your child an opportunity to help! One great idea is to use a food processor or blender to chop up the ingredients with the push of a button. Give your child time to explore the ingredients before and after chopping so they are able to feel the before and after chopping so are able to tell the difference.

    Taste:  If your child is able to taste some or all of the ingredients, give them the opportunity! A great way to make this more enjoyable for your child is to use a hand under hand approach when bringing the spoon to their mouth. This allows your child to taste the item on their own terms. 

Beading

You might remember creating a pasta necklace for your parents during art class in elementary school or creating friendship bracelets for all of your friends at summer camp. Much like it might have been for you, beading is still a fun and popular activity for kids of many ages. It allows them to be creative as well as make something that they can wear as a conversation starter! 

Adaptations:

Size and Color: Consider using large beads of different shapes and textures so your child is able to distinguish between beads through touch. If your child has residual vision, you may want to use brightly colored beads against a dark background, such as a black tablecloth. 

Fine Motor Adaptations: Use a large string with a defined tip, such as a shoelace, so that your child is able to string the beads on independently. 

Board Games

Board games are a great way to create a family activity that siblings can participate in as well. Not only is it fun, but it will also help to build connections between your child and the game participants. 

Adaptations:

    Game Parts: When deciding on a game, try to select one that has large pieces, such as a physical version of tic tac toe. If you select a game where the game pieces are the same shape (such as checkers) consider placing a tactile marker on the pieces so your child is able to distinguish between colors. 

    Vibrating timer: If your game has a component that involves a timer, use one that vibrates as well so your child with vision and hearing loss is able to identify when their turn has ended! An easy solution to this is to use a smartphone timer and set the alert to vibrate. 

    Velcro: Use Velcro so that your child with vision and hearing loss is able to place their pieces down independently! For example, when playing checkers put Velcro on the boards and pieces. This also ensures that your child is able to reach over the board game without knocking other pieces off.