Katherine is the amazing two year old I have been working with at the preschool for the blind. We think that she is deaf, blind, and has some form of cerebral palsy. When I first meet her I had no idea where to start. She was so floppy and lethargic. Katherine slept almost the entire time during preschool and when she woke up she did not seem to respond to much of anything. I spent the first week of preschool trying to get to know her. During our first week together I discovered everything that she hates: physical therapy, being woken up from her naps, having to touch anything with texture, and being hot. And that her favorite thing to do is to eat.
After some research on deaf/blind infants (Katherine is two but like an infant in many respects) I decided to start doing some things differently with Katherine. I started doing an object schedule so she could associate certain objects with certain times during preschool. A great thing about the way the preschool is set up is that there is a predictable routine. The hope is that Katherine will eventually learn what each object represents and then be able to request something using a specific object. For example she has a bottle nipple that I give her whenever it’s time for her bottle. Once she associates the bottle nipple with eating she could be able to hand her caregiver it to request food. She’s still a ways off from that but communication is the ultimate goal! I also got the opportunity to eat at dialogue in the dark- a completely dark restaurant that stimulates what it is like to be blind. Eating lunch there really showed me how much sensory input Katherine needs to stay awake. I got sleepy not being able to visually attune to anything and Katherine has limited sight and hearing so she needs that much more input to make it interesting enough to stay awake! I’ve started making sure to incorporate touch and sensory input whenever I’m working with her.
When I first started working with Katherine three weeks ago she always had the same expression on her face- she looked completely uninterested in anything. The preschool for the blind went to BumbleBee last Friday. BumbleBee is a play area attached to a café. A first Katherine was looking her usual uninterested self but slowly started to warm up. I eventually got a smile out of her by going down the slide and tossing her into the ball pit. Over the past two weeks she has slowly started to open up and express herself more. One of the Indian staff who works at the preschool told me: “Sister, before you came Katherine slept all the time. Now she crys. It is so good.” Even crying is so good because it means that she is learning some form of communication instead of just laying on her back and not making an noise. Today she even bit me when I tried to make her put her hand in rice. At first I thought it was an accident and then she did it again. It’s hard to be mad when she’s being so intentional! Over the past couple of days she has started to get upset when I put her down to leave. Usually I can’t resist going over to say goodbye one more time and a couple of times I’ve been rewarded with a smile when I go to pick Katherine up one last time.
I can’t wait to see how much more interactive Katherine will become in the next couple of months. I truly believe that this sweet little girl who has captured my heart will blow us away with how much she will learn!