Why the Developmental Milestones Suck for Blind Children & What Parents Should Do Instead

When mentioning the developmental milestones, professionals repeatedly told me that I should expect my blind daughter to develop more slowly than her sighted peers. Other moms have told me they heard the same line. (Seriously, does this just flat out disturb you as much as it does me?!)

But we know very well that every child develops at their own pace with leveled skills at different times! So why, oh why, do we keep stressing over checking off those developmental milestones right on time?

Madilyn visiting the Little Rock Zoo

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The Dreaded Questions

I remember how I dreaded having to answer the same questions about Madilyn’s progress over and over again at all of her pediatrician’s appointments.

“No, not yet.” I’d say with a deep breath, followed by a somewhat optimistic re- mark about how she was working on it but hadn’t quite got there yet. Of course, many times, especially after she turned one, it was just a flat out “No… no… no…” because most of the goals weren’t even on our radar.

I hated answering those questions because, honestly, I was disappointed that she wasn’t meeting the goals, too. I thought every other kid her age had already checked these goals off the list, except mine. I imagined other moms in there nodding their head yes to all of the questions without a second thought.

The Parent Guilt Struggle is Real

One developmental milestone I remember being really confused about Madilyn not reaching was her lack of curiosity about toys and other things. For a long time, she made no attempt to reach out to touch even her favorite sound toy. Was it lack of motivation? Did she really not understand how it worked for her to press the button? I couldn’t figure it out…

As parents, we struggle to know when we should attribute an unchecked milestone to blindness or when should we look for another cause. Have doctors mentioned autism, neurological disorders to you already? Yep, to me too!

Many of our kids not only have a visual impairment, but a physical impairment as well. Madilyn fought with sensory processing challenges from birth (the reason she didn’t like to touch pretty much everything) but it wasn’t until she was in elementary school that I figured out (therapists and teachers hadn’t really mentioned the term either) that sensory processing, primarily tactile and auditory processing, was playing such a big role in her ability to learn.

little girl with curly hair on swing

Developing a Milestones Mindset with an Individualized Solution

It’s discouraging when you’re focused on what your child hasn’t achieved instead of what she has achieved; and it seems that we could think of the checklists as a yellow flag with the message, “Hey! Your child isn’t developing at the rate of a typical child (whatever that really means) so maybe you should check up on that.”

To which I reply, “Yeah, I know. But we’re doing the best we can right now, so screw you CDC! Now leave us alone so we can get back to playing, er I mean… back to work.” Ha! Because kids deserve to learn through play!

The Better Approach

But you know what? I believe there’s a way better solution than having this cookie-cutter list hanging around in the shadows!

There are two major issues I have with the CDC’s Developmental Milestones Checklist:

  • First, I don’t think that the primary organization factor should be age.
  • Second, the list should be individualized for children with different abilities, such as kids who are blind.

Have I sparked your curiosity about what this individualized list of skills could look like? Then, download the Sensory Sun Blind Child’s Development Guide (Sample) for a hint at how the Social/Emotional Developmental Milestones modified for a blind child’s first year could potentially be extremely helpful.

Madilyn using the Apple iPad with VoiceOver and QWERTY keyboard

It’s All Gonna Be Okay

No one can disagree that it’s a winding journey for parents as we work 24/7 to give our children everything they need, and it’s especially tough when we don’t know what that always is. Plus, we want to give them more than they need, too, right?

In the last 10 years, I’ve discovered that many kids don’t meet the developmental milestones at the time they’re supposed to, or ever, and their lives are completely fulfilling and wonderful. Your child’s will be, too! As will yours.

Ready to download the free guide?

sample of developmental milestones for blind kids adapted

Now, Tell Me About Your Experiences in Dealing with the Developmental Milestones!

Have you had teachers or doctors tell you the same thing about development? What have you struggled with over and over again?

Share your comments below!

References

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Why the Developmental Milestones Suck for Blind Kids and How to Create an Individualized List for Your Blind Child

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