INSIGHTS FROM THE BLIND: Comparative Studies of Blind and Sighted Infants by Selma Fraiberg
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INSIGHTS FROM THE BLIND: Comparative Studies of Blind and Sighted Infants

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The results of Fraiberg's research on children blind from birth: a scholarly study that is wholly absorbing in its characterizations of individual children and the gradual unfolding of its findings. Examining adaptation in select areas (human attachments, prehension, locomotion, language development), Fraiberg and her Ann Arbor associates were able to determine at what stage the biological program is ""derailed"" and specific strategies of intervention become necessary, not merely to facilitate overall development but, more significantly, to circumvent hazards to ego formation and assure acquisition of key concepts such as object permanence. Blind children do not develop the usual repertoire of facial signs, a deficit which gives their mothers difficulty in responding until they learn to watch hands, the essential substitute, and encourage them. (Researchers also must adjust to the absence of facial cues: Fraiberg compares the experience to traveling in a country ""where the language and customs are alien."") In some areas--reaching for objects, creeping, walking independently--blind children perform later than sighted children and possibly, without proper intervention, not at all. In others, such as beginning language, development does not vary from sighted children, although specific kinds of usage (such as personal pronouns) are not mastered as easily. In fact, ""the impediment of blindness [was] discerned at every point of development at which representational intelligence"" would help the sighted child. Upon closer scrutiny, then, what seem to be ""developmental lags"" by sighted standards are actually ""heroic adaptive feats."" A model of sensitive observation, intellectual acuity, and humane intervention, without the wide appeal of The Magic Years, but indispensable as a reference for those working with blind children.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1977
Publisher: Basic Books