Kai’s Braille Blocks – Toys for Visually Impaired

*Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links that are no added cost to you!*

I’ve shared a little bit in the past about Kai’s visual impairments but nothing extensive. As he gets older, it’s become more and more apparent how little vision he actually does have. Obviously, everything we have experienced with Kai was nothing we expected and we to continue to learn as we go. Raising Kai is a constant waiting game to see what he accomplishes in his own time, nothing is guaranteed. The same went for his vision.

“Was our child blind in addition to all of his other diagnosis’s?”

When he was a baby, we were told he had optic nerve hypoplasia. ONH (Optic Nerve Hypoplasia) is the the under-development or absence of the optic nerve combined with possible brain and endocrine abnormalities. Just as with most medical diagnosis, there are various levels of severity. In some instances, ONH includes the absence or abnormal development of the corpus callosum (a thick band of nerve fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain). Abnormal development of the corpus callosum may or may not cause abnormal brain functions, and the effects can range from mild to severe. (https://www.chla.org/optic-nerve-hypoplasia) In Kai’s case, he has very little to none of his corpus callosum and his abnormal brain functions always made it very challenging to access his vision. AKA – he couldn’t tell us what he could or could not see. So, how did we know he had visual impairments? These were some of our first signs:

  • As an infant – lights, mobiles and other toys or distractions did not catch his attention
  • Kai did not start tracking things such as people, toys, etc. as he got older
  • His eyes would dance side to side, sometimes rapidly
  • The only things he seemed stimulated by were sounds and physical touch

We visited pediatric Opthamologists, including the Low Vision Clinic here in Columbus, Ohio at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We learned that Kai’s diagnosis is not something that can change/improve. Simply, he has minimal optic nerves and that’s it. It cannot be surgically fixed nor can someone “grow” more nerves, at least as of now. From then on, he’s been considered “legally blind”. Is there the potential that he can see a little of something? Yes. Do we know what he can see for sure? No. At least, not until he’s able to communicate that to us. So, what were some of the things we looked for/doctors tested to come to this conclusion?

  • We presented light up toys for Kai to play with/try to track
  • We showed him large black and white picture cards and books
  • We presented toys that were bright red + yellow against solid backgrounds to create high contrast
  • Pediatric Opthamoligists did a test called a “Visually Evoked Response/Potential (VER/VEP) Test” – this is a computerized recording of electrical activity in the processing center of the brain (back of your head) with light flashes
  • This VER/VEP test determined very minimal information was traveling from Kai’s eyes to his brain/vison processing center
  • The Low Vision Clinic performed play based “tests” in a dark room with light up toys with little visual responses from Kai

” So… what now? We have a kid who is blind.”

After accepting the fact that Kai had yet another hurdle he had to overcome, I started doing more research on how to raise a child with visual impairments. We know there is nothing to be done that could make Kai see one day or change his current situation, but we knew we could learn about how to best teach and interact with him considering his visual impairments as his parents. He is going to experience the world differently and approach situations in a completely different way than those of us who can see. Here are some of the tips we received and want to pass along to other parents in similar situations:

  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s specific visual impairment
  • Encourage curiosity and explore new things and places with your child
  • Give them a lot of opportunities to touch and investigate objects giving them explanations of those objects
  • Adapt your home and explore it to help them navigate it independently
  • Work with a vision therapist or vision teacher
  • Talk with other parents of children with visual impairments
  • Research toys/products specifically geared towards children with visual impairments

That leads me to what I am most excited to write about – toys for children with visual impairments! And better yet, a lot (if not all) of the toys/products I want to share with you are great for neurotypical children as well, which makes for the perfect opportunity for neurotypical and neurodivergent kiddos to play TOGETHER. This is what I always hope for Kai, opportunities to play with his peers, utilizing toys that he can interact with and understand too! Today I want to share with you all my favorite Braille Alphabet Blocks!

There are so many reasons why I love these blocks:

  1. These are made from sustainable rubber wood and coated with a non-toxic finish
  2. All colors are made from vegetable dye
  3. The above means safe to go in the mouth – Kai’s “eats” everything (haha!)
  4. The actual letter is indented so it can be “traced”
  5. Pre-braille skills – shows braille in lowercase + uppercase
  6. Helps with basic reading skills – can use the blocks as a discussion of letter sound association
  7. Practice letter recognition with them – even together with kids who have visual impairments and friends who don’t

I can’t wait to continue to share some more of my favorite products for kids with visual impairments with you all AND how you can use them for kids without visual impairments too! If you’re intersted in purchasing some of these amazing blocks, you can do so at the link (click image) below!

PlanToys Braille Alphabet A-Z – $41.95


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