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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Psycho-Social Implications of Blind Child

Author(s): S. Sood, M. Nada, R. C. Nagpal

Vol. 29, No. 2 (2004-04 - 2004-06)

Mostly the behaviour of an individual is more of acquired type from parents, siblings and surrounding environment and less of innate type. In a blind child because of the disability there is visual information deficit. He will learn every thing from his parents. He usually needs over stimulation to be trained to the level of sighted children. If his parents are considerate, well off, educated, can devote time, the child can develop to have normal or near normal psyche. Conversely if the parents stop treating the child as a developing individual due to their poverty and illiteracy, his self concept and psyche is going to be severely affected. The situation is pretty delicate and sensitive. Over protection can rob him of his independence, neglect turns him to undesirable behaviour. Either way, it is suffering child whose handicap multiplies in case is not treated properly. The community needs to be educated about having a positive attitude towards blind. They should be treated as equal to sighted individual in almost all respects. Effects of early blindness on personality Personality is treated as the total quality of the individual's behaviour as it is revealed in his thought, action, expression and attitude. Among these, the attitude forms the base for all other components. In case of visually disabled children, their attitude towards the world and the vice versa plays an important role in the making up of the self. Parents are the most important people in the life of the sighted as well as the visually disabled child.' They are generally ignorant about the implications of blindness on the personality development of child. In most places, parents also like to render maximum assistance to the visually disabled children. But their unawareness of right methodology keeps them away from possible assistance. Schools and organisations of the visually disabled children should offer guidance and counselling programmes to the families of these children. By doing so the parents would be able to appreciate their role in assisting the child to get ready for his total rehabilitation. So that, the blind child is self-sufficient, economically independent and thus transforms into an emotionally stable adult. This in turn can help the child to have a normal personality without any complexes and low feeling. It is generally thought that the family is the foremost non-formal agency in the rehabilitation process of visually disabled individuals. Education of visually impaired Louis Braille's invention of Braille alphabet system in 1832 provided a tremendous impetus to education of visually impaired children throughout the world. The education of visually impaired children in residential schools is an accepted model all over world.2 The first school for the blinds in India was started by Christian Missionaries in 1886 in Amritsar. There are 300 "Special Schools" in India which serve approximately 30,000 visually impaired school going children. After gaining primary education from these schools those children can be placed in regular schools in the general education system. This system of education i.e. first braille from special blind school and then learning from general school in the presence of regular teacher as well as resource teacher is known as integrated system of education. It aims at normalizing the life and education of visually impaired children in the least restrictive environment along with sighted children in general schools. The integrated system of education has been functioning world over since the second half of 20th century. The programme has various models for service delivery:

  1. Resource Model,
  2. Itinerant Model,
  3. Co-operative Model,
  4. Combined Model,
  5. Dual Model.

a) Resource Model

In this education plan the child is enrolled in a regular class with "regular teacher". Within the campus special teacher known as "Resource Teacher" is also available in addition to regular teacher. Regular teacher assumes major responsibility of visually impaired child's teaching in general programme. Resource teacher is responsible for making the child learn by special techniques and skills which he is not understanding from regular teacher.

b) Itinerant Model

It is the same as above except that the difficulty of the child is taken care of by itinerant teacher (visiting) instead of constantly available Resource teacher.

c) Combined Model

also known as resource-cum-itinerant Model. The child reading in a regular school has a Resource teacher for taking care of routine difficulties in regular class. For special difficulties he is helped by the Itinerant teacher (visiting teacher).

d) Cooperative Model

This educational plan is reverse of the resource model. Visually impaired child is enrolled in a special school with a special (resource) teacher in a special room for learning. From here he goes to the regular class room for a part of his day in order to join the mainstream of normal regular kind of learning with sighted children. Special teacher is here responsible for his programme in co-operation with regular teacher.

e) Dual Teaching Model

In this educational plan. Regular teacher is also trained enough to be resource teacher. In fact, India needs this type of educational plan for visually impaired children. Both residential schools and integrated schools play a complementary role in the education system of visually impaired children.

Devices for Learning

a) Braille In both integrated and special schools the blind children are taught through braille. In this system the letters are formed by a combination of raised dots to a cell. The area of Braille cells is 6 mm x 3.6 mm. The cell consist of six dots and can be arranged into 63 combinations or characters. Braille reading is slower than print reading.

b) Writing devices Braille slates are used for writing Braille. While writing the child has to punch dots downwards from right to left and then turn the paper and read from left to right by feeling upward impressions of the dots. Stylus is used for punching the dots in Braille cells. Braille type writers are also used where in the typing gives direct upward impression of dots.

c) Mathematical devices Blind children can also learn mathematics by using devices such as abacus and Taylor frame for doing calculations in arithmetics. Geometrical devices are also used to understand shapes.

Auxiliary Services for Blinds

Unlike general education, the education of visually impaired children demands more material, more equipment, individualized instructions, supplementary reading material and assistance of volunteers. Some of the useful auxiliary services are as follows

a) Brailling Service: That is transcribing a book, chapter of a book, part of the chapter print to braille print for the benefit of the blinds. Service though very useful is not easily available.

b) Reader and Recording Service: Braille reading is slower than print reading. For learning a blind has to do a lot of braille reading in order to match his sighted class mates. In order to increase the learning momentum by reading, two alternatives emerge i.e. live readers and recorded services. It is difficult to acquire live readers always. However, copies of recordings of audio cassettes for listening to the lesson can be provided easily.

Technology and visual impairment: Books are now available on computer disks which allow to increase the size of print (low vision children) or to switch from print to voice which speak out the print (FOR THE BLIND). These computer books may soon become as abundant as conventional ones. Computer technology is beneficial in the field of education also. Computer assisted instructions has helped in teaching many skills and vocational skills e.g, computer programming telecommunications to persons wit h visual impairment. The advantages of micro computer technology are most apparent in the area of writing. The written products of many blind students can be greatly improved when they use word processing features available with computers. The blind/low vision students can keep a copy printed in large type for themselves and standard type for their teachers and class mates. The cost is critical factor in all these advances.

Low Vision Children: There are programmes to educate, rehabilitate, and integrate the blind with normal population. But there is a group of children between blinds and sighted children having low vision who are at a disadvantaged position. Confusion, whether they should read print or learn and use of Braille. In addition these low vision children did not have the encouragement in the past to use residual vision. People thought more use of defective eye would cause further damage to vision. Evidently this has been disproved. This new concept of maximum use of remaining sight encouraged the development of many kinds of optical aids i.e. magnifiers, low vision aids (LVA).

Suppliers of LVA: a) India optics and scientific works, Hills Road, Ambala Cants. b) Prince Optical Works B-102, G.T. Karnal Road, Industrial Area - Delhi- 33. c) M/s Shah and Shah, 2, Russell Street, Calcutta d) Balliwala and Homi Pvt. Ltd. 614 Jaggan Nath, Shankar Seth Marg Bombay, e) M/s Towa Optics 223, New Okhla Industrial Estate- Phase-1, Delhi.

Rehabilitation of Blind: There has been an evolutionary process throughout history in changing attitudes about the blind and blindness. About 1,000 years back the first attitude was of disregard and rejection, isolation and abuse. About a 100 years back the attitude changed to pity and benevolence. Nowadays there is a positive attitude towards the blinds. Now we expect them to lead a life in which they have an opportunity for education, to become economically and physically independent. If we teach the child proper compensatory skills for learning, he is likely to be a self sufficient economically independent and emotionally stable adult. The education and rehabilitation of programmes for visually impaired children are growing in large numbers and the independence of these children is assured in every respect. A blind person needs following types of Rehabilitation:

a) Medical Rehabilitation: By providing LVA many visually impaired can benefit from their residual useful vision.

b) Training and psycho-social rehabilitation: It is an important aspect. Each blind should be assured and made to feel that they are equally useful and not inferior to sighted person. Their training should include: mobility training , long cane, training in living Skills - bathing, washing etc.

c) Educational Rehabilitation

d) Vocational Rehabilitation : Taught simple occupations like candle making, chalk making, chair canning etc. however, these have lost their economic value nowadays. Efforts should be made to discover new economically useful occupations not requiring any use of sight. For example engineering occupations which can be performed by blinds, assembly work, milling machine, drilling machine, and capstan lathe etc. Occupations like dairy farming, animal husbandry, poultry keeping. mudha making. rope making in rural area by the blind.

Employment: Educated blind can seek employment in all gouts. where there is reservation for visually handicapped. Govt. of India has set up 47 special employment exchanges in different states for visually handicappe d3. A blind can pursue a variety of jobs in the computers after the development of voice synthesizer which when loaded will speak what is being typed. Telephone booths are being frequently allotted to the blind by the govt. 17 voluntary rehabilitation centres set up by the Ministry of Labour and employment assess the disabled, give them some training and try to place them in suitable employment. The Ministry of Rural Development has reserved 3% vacancies for the disabled in the integrated rural development programme as well as in all other poverty alleviation programmes.

Concessions to the Blind: Travel concession by rail - 50-75%, by air (50% are provided to the blind.4 ). P & T Department Free postage of literature for blind concessional telephone connections to the blinds. Custom exemption on Braille paper, audio cassettes for blinds,

Conveyance allowance for blind employee, 5% of basic to the maximum of Rs. 100/- per month. Income tax concession. Award of dealership/agencies of oil company. 1% jobs fixed in govt. fixed for blind. Scholarships to the disabled. Awards for visually handicapped.

Conclusions:

Visually disabled are not fallen souls. They have capability just like others. Society should provide opportunity to bring out those latent potentialities. Positive attitude towards them will make them socially amicable, psychologically adjustable and educationally sound. Medical intervention education and rehabilitation programmes, community involvement and parents involvement programmes and such multifaceted approaches are vital for the betterment of the life and education of visually impaired children. The unlimited opportunities and experiences extended to them make them physically fit mentally alert and totally independent in the community.

References

  1. Lowenfeld 13. (1975). The Changing Status of the Blind from Separation to Integration Springfield: Charles C Thomas.
  2. Mani M.N.G. (1997). Techniques of Teaching Blind Children. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.
  3. Manual for training of PHC doctors. In the field of Visual Impairment.
  4. Rehabilitation Council of India. A Curtain Raiser. Concessions given by the. Central Government for the disabled.

Department of Ophthalmology, Pt. B.D. Sharma, PGIMS, Rohtak -124001 (Haryana) India

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