Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Tactile Baby Blankets

Baby on tactile blanketTactile baby blankets are a wonderful way to encourage exploration among our youngest children who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities or deafblindness.  Presenting the child with a variety of tactile elements encourages exploration and promotes a baby's cognitive development.  While tactile blankets may not seem to be related to literacy, they can help babies with visual impairments to develop important motor skills, as well as an understanding of basic concepts, which are at the foundation of literacy.

You can also use a tactile blanket to observe what textures and colors the child is interested in, a simple form of assessing what the child is interested in.  It may take awhile for the child to allow their hands, feet or cheeks to touch the texture, but all of these opportunities develop interest, use of hands, tactual awareness and cognition.

 

Design

Ideally blankets should be designed to suit the individual needs and interests of a specific child. Considerations such a child's preferred color (which is especially important in children with cortical visual impairment or CVI) can be taken into account. Some children strongly prefer different types of textures or, conversely, are reluctant to touch certain textures.  While all items that are attached to a blanket should be very sturdy, care should also be taken with small items which may be a choking hazard.

Tactile blanket  Tactile blanket

 

Tactile blanket   Tactile blanket

 

Blankets can be a collaborative project, with help and input from the family, TVI, Early Intervention Specialist, Occupational Therapist and any other members of the team.

 

Specifications

Pat Jacobs sewing a tactile blanket

The blankets shown here were made by my mother, who is a retired nurse.  She has been sewing all her life, and started sewing the blankets during the last 5 years.  She learned that there was a need for them and she wanted to help meet that need.  She lives in Pennsylvania and sends the blankets to me when she's finished.  At first we distributed them to TVIs working in early intervention, but now we share them with Perkins International, where they have caught on around the world.

  • Blankets measure three feet by two feet. (This is the size of an infant to lie on our hold on their lap.)
  • One side of the blanket should be a SOLID color. (This provides good contrast for toys or other items placed on it.)
  • Variety of colors and textures should be added to the other side.  This may include corduroy, velvet, flannel.
  • Small, but sturdy items can be sewn onto the textured side, such as an empty spool of thread on a sturdy piece of string, a plastic scrubby, a pocket with something inside (like a small teddy bear).
  • Materials that make sound can be attached, such as mylar crinkle paper, small bells or other items of interest to the child.
  • Materials may be donated or recycled (e.g. fabric stores may be willing to donate scraps or old outfits that the child has outgrown can be repurposed)
  • The amount of time needed to make a blanket will depend on the skills of the seamstress, as well as how many additional items are attached.  Pat Jacobs makes several at once and says that it takes her about an hour for each one.

Mothers in Indonesia at Baby Camp using tactile blanket

 

Using the Blanket

  • The blanket can be used with the baby in different positions, such as on the stomach or back, or sitting up.
  • The baby's socks can be removed, to explore with feet and toes.
  • As babies begin to explore, they realize that their hands can give them a lot of information.
 
 

Skills Addressed Through Tactile Blanket

  • tactile exploration
  • gross motor skills (e.g. rolling over, kicking, head control)
  • visual scanning
  • auditory localization
  • fine motor skills (e.g. raking, grasp and release, pincer grasp)
  • categorization and concept development (smooth, rough, scratchy, loud)

 

Baby on tactile blanket  Baby exploring tactile blanket

The babies pictured in the photos above are developing head strength and neck control while exploring different textures.

 

The important thing to remember is that there is no single right way to make a blanket.  Think about what the child is interested in and what skills you are hoping to promote.  Then use your imagination and put your creativity to work!

Collage of tactile baby blanket

Comments

Baby blankets

Posted by Maureen Lewicki

More details please about the construction ofnthe blankets. Do you use a batting? If so how thick? Are the squares/sections quilted down so the pieces do not shift?

Sharing this idea with classroom teachers

Posted by Debra Goodsir

I forwarded the idea of the tactile baby blanket to one of the teachers at the School for Special Purpose that I go to, and we're in the process of making one for each of the kids in her class (although we can't sew so it's going to be a shared project with either volunteers or the High School I go to). 

Debra Goodsir
TVI
Itinerant Support Teacher Vision
New South Wales, Australia

Update on Tactile Blanket Project

Posted by Debra Goodsir

Here is an update on our tactile blanket project. 
 
I spoke to the faculty head of TAS (Technical and Applied Studies) she is a very proactive person, and also a textiles teacher. Even while we were talking she had an idea for included her year 10 class in making the blankets. 
 
So far we've had a lot of discussion between the class teacher at the School for Special Purpose (SSP), me and the TAS Head Teacher. TAS Head Teacher (Bec) has included her year 8 and year 10 classes and all of her TAS colleagues in the project and Bec has made a sample quilt from fabric donated by her colleagues. 
 
I've had donations of ribbons from an Art teacher, all of the staff at the SSP (except the teacher I'm working with, who was away) has given ideas, as has my Assistant Principal Vision. 
 
Now we're in the process of sharing ideas again. 
 
It's an exciting project. Bec had the idea of making 3 quilts by the end of term. I'm not sure we'll get there with the amount of input we're having, but they'll be great once they're done. 
 
We're including a variety of tactiles and they will be washable. 
 
Debra Goodsir
Itinerant Support Teacher Vision
New South Wales, Australia

Great idea, I have lost my vision recently

Posted by shelbycrops1

I have always done crafts, but since my vision lose I have not known how I could help others.  I was able to work up a tactile blanket (not so fast) but it helped me also to feel what I was doing.  I donated to a local business that helps with infants and very young children.  I will be making more and my friends I used to quilt with are joining with me.   Thanks so much for sharing this idea.

Donating tactile blankets

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

That's wonderful!  There are many ways to give to others even after you have lost your vision.  It sounds like your tactile blankets will be welcome by the local business!

Update on Tactile Blanket Project

Posted by Debra Goodsir

We've moved further in our innovation of the tactile blanket for students with multiple disabilities who are older. 

After a lot of discussion and ideas from many people we've decided to put pockets in the back of the blanket with velcro to seal them. Then the teacher can insert interesting things that feel or sound interesting and she can change them according to what the students like. 

Pockets will also enable the inserted things to be taken out so the blanket can be washed. 

Pockets will only be in some parts of the blanket so that students can still lay on the blankets and be able to feel lumpy things in parts of them.    The great value of working in a team or group is that we always come up with better ideas!

Debra Goodsir
Itinerant Support Teacher Vision

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