Hesperian Health Guides

Helping the Blind Child to Use His Hands and to Learn Skills

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 30: Blindness and Difficulty Seeing > Helping the Blind Child to Use His Hands and to Learn Skills

Help the child who cannot see well to do all kinds of things with her hands, including daily care of herself: eating, dressing, bathing, and toileting. Ideas for learning these skills are in Chapter 36 to Chapter 39.

At first you may need to help the child feel things by guiding his hands.
a woman helping a child feed himself.

To help the child know where to look for the different foods on her plate, try to always put them in the same place. As the child gets older and learns to tell time, have her think of the plate or bowl as a clock. Tell her at what time each type of food is put on her plate. Here the glass of water is at 2 o’clock. Always put it at 2 o’clock.

illustration of the above: a child's plate with numbers like a clock.
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Help the child learn to put in the same place glasses, cups, bottles, and other things that can be easily spilled or broken. Teach her to remember where she puts things, and learn how to reach out for something and find it without knocking it over. Reaching out with the back of the hand causes less spilling. (This will take practice and there will be accidents, but that is the way she learns. Do not hand her everything or do everything tor her, just to avoid a mess. Making a mess is part of learning.)

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Help the child learn to recognize different shapes, sizes, and the ‘feel of things’ with her fingers. Let her play with toys and puzzles so that she learns to put different pieces together in a certain pattern or order. See ideas for toys and puzzles.

a woman speaking with a child at a stove.
And it's HOT - so be careful!

Teach the child about things he must be careful with or keep a distance from, to not get hurt: things such as fire, hot pans and dishes, sharp knives, dogs and mules that might bite or kick, deep holes, wells, cliffs, deep ponds or rivers. Do not just tell him “No!” Help him to understand the danger.

CAUTION! Whenever possible, keep dangerous things out of reach or put fences around them, and take other precautions to protect the child—especially until he is old enough to be careful.

Give the child opportunities to begin to help in different ways around the house. This will both increase her skills and give her a sense of being part of the life and action of the family.
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Rani’s mother teaches her how to cook by guiding her hand and explaining each step.
Rani's mother speaking while she helps her to cook.
Now turn it over.
Good girl!
Abdul helps rock his baby brother.

When the child has learned to handle bigger things fairly well, help her learn to feel and handle smaller things. For example:

She can help sister pick the little stones and bits of dirt out of the rice. If someone takes the time to teach him, a child can begin to help in a lot of things around the home, and also in village crafts. Weaving of mats, rugs, clothing, and baskets are things many blind children can learn to do well, and it helps them learn to use their hands skillfully.

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a girl speaking to a blind child while they clean rice.
Good! You clean it as well as I do!

Also, look for games and toys that help the child develop her ability to feel fine details and small shapes with her fingers.

DVC Ch30 Page 253-3.png For example, you can make dominos and dice out of wood. For the dots, hammer round-headed nails into the wood, so she can feel them. Or drill holes.
The child can learn to feel the dots with her fingertips. At the same time, she will begin to learn to count and use numbers.
You can start with ‘giant’ dominos and dice, and when her fingers learn to feel more skillfully, change to small ones. This will be good preparation for doing many kinds of fine work and perhaps for learning to read braille.


Blind children should have the same opportunity as other children to go to school. Ideas for how children in the community can help a blind child get to school, and help her in the classroom and with her studies are discussed in the CHILD-to-child activity on blindness.

In most countries there are special schools that teach blind children to read and write ‘braille’. Braille is a system of raised dots that represent letters and can be read with the fingertips. It was invented many years ago by a blind boy from France named Louis Braille.

Most village children do not learn braille in school. However, there are many other ways that they can learn in school.

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For the blind village schoolchild, one of the best aids for taking notes and reviewing lessons is a small tape recorder. The family should try to save money to buy one. Or perhaps the schoolchildren can hold a raffle or collect money to buy one. Other children can help record lessons from school books, and stories and information from other books.

IMPORTANT! In order to keep up with her studies a blind child will need help. In school another child can read to her from her books. The child may also need extra help after school. An older brother or sister, or another schoolchild, can perhaps spend time teaching her at home.

Remember, most ‘blind’ children have some useful vision. Encourage the child to use whatever sight she has. If she can see big letters on the blackboard, write big and clear, and be sure she sits in the front. Be sure the light is good, and that dark letters and things stand out against a light background.

a girl looking at the word RAT in big letters above a drawing of a rat.

If she can see at all, to help her learn the letters, make them very BIG. Use white paper and dark ink.

To help the child learn the shape of letters by feel, you could make them in one of these ways.

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rope glued or pinned to wood or cardboard grooves cut into wood letter cut out of cardboard and glued to thick paper letter in plaster or clay

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board with string stretched through holes
In the schoolroom, a pan with soft clay or mud is helpful for learning to write and feel letters. Children can practice writing outside in sand, mud, or clay. When the child begins to write, you can stretch string lines across the paper to help her write in straight lines. Or draw extra dark lines.
To help the child begin to count you can make a simple ‘counting frame’. The child can slide the beads or rings from one side to the other to count, add, and subtract. wood beads,
or rings of bamboo
a counting frame made with rings of bamboo.

When the child becomes more skilled with numbers, she can learn to use a special counting frame called an ‘abacus’ which has beads on wires. The beads slide up and down to form numbers. With practice, a blind child can learn to add and subtract on the abacus as fast or faster than other children can do it on paper.

an abacus.
(All the beads are really the same color. Here we have made some black to make it clearer how to count.)

The beads in the positions shown give these numbers.
These 4 wires now read 6789. Notice that each bead above the center bar equals 5 times each bead directly below it.
A pegboard like this can help a child learn numbers through touch — and help him learn to feel small differences in things.
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This page was updated:21 Nov 2019