Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sensitizing Children with Multiple Impairments to the World

By: Kristie Smith

            Eva Grant wrote a beautiful poem called “My 5 Senses”.  The poem states:

I can see trees and grass, the sun and sky;
I can taste chocolate ice cream, apple pie;
I can hear music, laughter, words you said;
I can smell perfume, flowers, baking bread;
I can touch silk and velvet, a baby’s skin;
What a wonderful world I’m in!

            Children with multiple disabilities (MIVI) feel the same as everyone else.  They, too, crave to use their senses to explore and be a part of our beautiful world.  If they cannot see, teach them another way to “see”.  My student learned color concepts by associating colors with foods and smells. She loves colors even though she has prosthetic eyes because she can taste brown through chocolate.
       All human beings have a soul and the same basic needs:  to love, to be loved, to be productive and to socialize.  None of us are completely independent.  Imagine if you have to cut your own hair or perform a surgery on yourself.  None of us are independent, nor do any of us have the right to restrict people with disabilities from fully enjoying the world.  Someone may say, “But what good does it do?  He does not know if anyone is around him or not.”  My answer is, “How do you know what he actually understands, and truthfully, it is much more than you believe.”  I also propose this thought:  What if I called the dentist and asked for my teeth to be whitened, and the receptionist laughs and says, “Why Ms. Smith, you are not a supermodel, so I do not think we will whiten your teeth.”  Placing labels and not giving your all to any human being is nothing short of a crime in my book.
      The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) offers so many wonderful items that help, as Dr. Virginia Bishop states, “Bringing the world to the child."  For example, all people need stimulation. Bodies get tired and restless.  People without a physical disability can get up, walk around, and look at pictures on the wall.  Our students crave this as well but cannot communicate their needs, so they moan, rock, bite, or act out.  Their bodies are screaming for sensory input.   
Picture of Sensory Learning Kit and its component partsAPH has the most brilliant kit called “The Sensory Learning Kit” that comes with switches for the child to activate a fan, a vibrating pillow, a radio and many other devices themselves, so that they may be in charge of providing stimulus for themselves.  This is setting the student up for success.  The kit also comes with an ice pack, multi-colored lenses for a flashlight, a spinning pinwheel and other great items that will enhance awareness and stimulation for the child. 
          APH offers a Walk-Run for Fitness Kit that provides a personal guide wire system or you can use a human guide with the kit’s adjustable tether, which is long enough for people in wheelchairs.
          Other great ideas for sensory input are listed below.  Every person has the right to be happy and have a quality life.  A person with MIVI may have a different lifestyle, but it can still be a great and fulfilling life with friends, productivity, and love.
        Warm baby lotion for a few seconds in the microwave and gently rub the lotion on the legs, arms and back
        Heating pads (as long as they are being supervised) are a great way to relax restless legs (or sensory deprivation)

        Sounds like listening to beans in a bottle rattle make a huge difference.  This activity addresses sensory deprivation issues as well

        Listening to music- William Congreve once said, Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

        Feeling of wet and dry textures a small tub of sand, soft items, water, floating ducks (Always look for items and ideas that will please the person with MIVI) Do not force a person with disabilities to touch anything that is not pleasing to them- briefly swipe their hands and watch for a response

        For little ones (ages 3 and younger) APH offers the Lets Seekit that includes pompoms, high contrast foam, puppets and many other excellent items
 •        APH also has the Sensory Cylinder Set that encourages hand manipulation, colors, tactual and weight awareness
        Brushing with a soft brush will ease anxiety for some students who are sensory deprived

Remember what Eva Grant beautifully said in her poem -- we all have needs to experience the world: to smell, touch, taste, see, hear in a variety of ways. As one of my heroes in visual impairment says, “If you can’t bring the child to the world, bring the world to the child." ~Dr. Virginia Bishop.

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.