Program helps blind babies develop skills
February 1, 2007 (WLS) -- Any child's development is critical during the first three years. It is even more so when they are born blind.
Teaching blind babies basic development skills is challenging but not impossible. Thanks to an early intervention program provided by Chicago's Lighthouse for people who are blind and visually impaired.
Once a week, Marla Garstka, an early intervention teacher, comes to Abby Fisher's house to work on her motor skills. Marla has been working with blind babies for 23 years.
"It's the hardest years not only for development, there are areas of development that are tough when you don't have that sight, vision does drive the other sensory systems," said Marla.
Marla's student, Abby, was born without eyes. She has conformers to prevent her brows from deforming.
"Your eyes actually keep the shape of your face when your face you grow so fast as a baby that it you don't have that it's chance shape," said Erin.
Abby's mom, Erin, did not know that her daughter was going to be blind. She had a difficult labor.
"They did know she didn't have eyes they actually found out later and they came and told us your daughter has anmapthobia and she has no eyes," said Erin.
"It was shock, you know, you don't expect that, you know, kids as long as they have 10 fingers and 10 toes, you know, you don't ever think they're not going to have eyes. I thought it was more of a shock. It was a little bit different," said Erin.
At 13 months, Abby has a lot of strengths.
"Every time I come here she does something new and terrific, the area that we kind of see that she's not motivated is movements. She's not really motivated to roll or move out of her little areas," said Marla.
"We've got her to sit, we've got her to reach out while she's in sitting," said Marla.
Marla is confident that Abby will develop the skills she needs to be independent.
"We typically see it about 18 months so we just kind of move along with whatever we can do with them to encourage it like any other child they roll and they crawl and they pull to standing and then they move out and then we have as they stand we have strategies to help them become independent walkers," said Marla.
As Abby works on her development skills, her mom has already selected eyes for her daughter.
"We picked a bluish green color, my eyes are blue and my husbands are green so we kind of I picked something between there. It's pretty I like it," said Erin.
For more information on early intervention for blind children call Chicago Lighthouse at 312/ 666-1331 or go to thechicagolighthouse.org/.
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