This article from WonderBaby.org outlines the steps that families go through when adopting a child with special needs. Author Kimberly Schildbach LMHC, M.Ed. shares her Advice from a Family Working to Bring Two Children Home:
- Fall head over heels in absolute love
- Build Community
- Wait, Dream and Find Projects
- One Step at a Time
She writes about her "current obsession" with "Nellie's lack of pre-literacy work. My daughter has never been to a zoo and smelled the animals; she's never heard a cat meow or a dog bark. She's never picked out her favorite soft shirt or chosen her special birthday meal." The Schildbach family has a list of places they would like to take her and books to expand her experiences.
We highly recommend providing her with lots and lots of hands-on experience with everything to develop an understanding of how things work. So much of learning for typical kids is through the visual channel, but for Nellie it will need to be through direct experience. Getting her involved in the kitchen activities is a great place to get started, as there is lots to explore! She can be involved in all the steps of the process, so that she can develop a understanding of things. For example, if she wants to drink milk, she will need to learn that it is kept in the refrigerator, that the cups are in a certain cupboard, that there are different types of cups, etc. She can be involved in pouring the actual milk and putting it back in the fridge, and washing her cup when she is finished. As you well know from having raised so many children, it would be a lot faster to do things yourself than to do it with her, but taking her through each step is really the way she will learn, especially coming from an institutional background.
We also suggest that it's important for Nellie to develop basic concepts, such as big/little, up/down, left/right, etc. before beginning formal instruction in braille. It's certainly important to expose her to braille from the start, just as we expose toddlers to print long before they begin reading, but she needs to begin with an understanding of objects, people, and experiences in her life. Have a look at Helping Young Children to Develop Emergent Literacy Skills, Developing Routines, and Early Literacy and Students with Multiple Disabilities.
Here are some tactile books that the mother of a 3-year-old created: http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/deaf-blind-son and http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/big-and-small-book These are good ways to get started with early literacy, using real objects that can be touched and manipulated, along with braille labels. If you register on the site, you will receive blog posts every week or so with new ideas and activities.
We also suggest that families contact the local agency serving children who are blind in their area, as they have teachers who will come to the home and give suggestions on how to adapt things for a particular child.
You can follow the story on the family's blog: Bringing Nellie & Marin home. We wish the Schildbach family the best of luck!