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Early years

A mother holding baby and smiling.

A mother and her baby

The early years are crucial for children's development, and it can be difficult to know what to do if your child struggles to communicate their sensory needs.

As a parent or carer, you play the largest roles in the happiness, development and progress of your child. There may be a lot of Early Years professionals involved in your family life because of your child's vision impairment, which can be overwhelming at first, but you’ll very quickly become an expert in your little one’s eye condition too.

From finding accessible toys and games, to supporting the development of social skills and learning, find out how we can help.

Early Years support and resources

The Developmental Journal for babies and children with vision impairment (DJVI), developed by Great Ormond Street Hospital Developmental Vision team, is a structured early intervention programme. It systematically tracks development and vision progress from birth to age three (or equivalent developmental age) by:

  • Helping parents and practitioners track and understand the child’s achievements, progress and development.
  • Supporting goal setting and guidance to promote vision and general development.
  • Supporting interdisciplinary and interagency work.
  • Supporting communication between parents and professionals
  • Identifying areas of difficulty early for increased support.

Parents, health professionals, Qualified Teachers of children with Vision Impairment (QTVIs) and Habilitation Specialists can use the DJVI together to track, shape, support and celebrate each child’s new skills and abilities as they grow.

Research carried out by Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Developmental Vision team /UCL (commissioned by RNIB, Fight for Sight and GOSH Children’s charity) provided evidence that children up to the age of 3, with severe vision impairment, make better progress in their development and behaviour when supported using the DJVI, than children receiving other forms of support. The DJVI also helps parents feel better assisted.

The DJVI may be delivered to families as part of the support provided by health and local authority vision impairment services (QTVIs and Habilitation Specialists), and they should have a professional licence and training to use it in their support of each child.

RNIB’s experience reflects the research findings, and promotes use of the DJVI as best practice in our policy statements: Policy Statement on Early Years Intervention and Support for Babies with Vision Impairment. If your child is not currently being supported with the DJVI, you can ask your paediatrician or QTVI about it, or contact us for further advice at: [email protected]

Growing, playing and learning

We have produced a number of guides to support you and your young child.  Download our early years guide for advice on choosing an early years setting for a child with a visual impairment:

Our Focus on foundation guide offers practical ideas for the successful inclusion of children with vision impairments in early years settings including reception classes. It is written for all who work in early years settings but may be of interest to parents:

The following Mobility and independence guide has information on movement in the early years for children with vision impairment. It suggests ways of encouraging mobility from birth onwards, including for children with complex needs. We also cover some ideas and tips to help you teach daily living skills:

Our Social inclusion and social bonding Guide is aimed at Nursery level children, looking at some ideas to encourage blind and partially sighted toddlers and pre-schoolers to learn to socialise and make friends:

Infant massage is wonderful and supports the physical, sensory and emotional development of children who are blind or partially sighted. We cover ideas that will stimulate, relax, relieve, and encourage your child to interact in new ways:

Learning through play in the early years covers a range of topics including advice on play, movement and touch as well as suggestions for how to create treasure baskets and sensory development resource boxes:

Sensory play

Our sensory play guides outline the importance of play for children with a vision impairment. They describe different types of play, and provide information on choosing toys and creating play environments to support children in their play:

Further support

Our team of regionally based Children, Young People and Family Support Officers is here to help. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or you’d like to talk further about any of the above, then please email us at [email protected] or call us on 0303 123 9999.