Developmental Disabilities

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Techniques for Infants and Toddlers with Visual Impairment - Good Fairy Syndrome

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Good Fairy Syndrome

by Alycyn Ferrell and Sharon A. Raver

Lois Harrell from the Blind Babies Foundation in San Francisco speaks frequently of the Good Fairy Syndrome. This phrase describes how visually impaired infants must view a world in which objects and people seem to appear and disappear into a void. From birth, infants who are visually impaired rely on other people to bring them everything, whether it is food, social interaction, or a change of diapers. Although this cannot be avoided completely, the passivity it creates can be reduced if a greater totality of an action, through verbal or tactual feedback, is provided for the child. That is, tell the child where diapers are kept before they are placed on the child and have the child touch the shelves where toys are stored so the child can begin to understand that these things do not just magically appear when the child is ready for them.

The Good Fairy syndrome may play a large role in the delay in object concepts observed in visually impaired children. Along the same lines, attempts to anticipate every need of infants may delay their understanding that they can have an effect on the world through actions other than crying. Doing too much for the child, and an attitude of over-protection, may work to lower expectations for the child, and ultimately may lower the child‘s performance.

In 1989, Dr. Turben received funding that enabled the Cleveland Sight Center to initiate the first large-scale, family-centered Children's Services Program in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Turben worked for Lake County Early Intervention Collaborative Group in 1988-89 as the consultant who prepared the County Needs Assessment and assisted the collaborative in the preparation of the 1988-89 Lake County Early Intervention Collaborative Plan, which launched family collaboratives as a network of families with children who had disabilities.
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