Introduction  pp. 1-10


By David H. Warren

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The purpose of this book is to explore what is known about the variables that affect the development of children with visual impairments. I take as a starting point the premise that children face a number of adaptive tasks that must be met in the course of development. That is, the world presents children with situations for which they must develop appropriate adaptive behaviors. This approach concentrates on the children themselves and on the variables that affect the quality of their adaptation to these tasks, rather than (as in past treatments) on comparisons of children who have visual impairments with those children who are sighted.

The comparative approach

In my book entitled Blindness and Early Childhood Development (Warren, 1977, 1984), my approach was explicitly comparative. That is, the capabilities and characteristics of blind and visually impaired children were evaluated in relation to the corresponding capabilities and characteristics of sighted children, all in relation to chronological age (CA).

This approach implicitly assumes a “blindness as deficit” model, in which the differences revealed are attributed to the variable that differentiates the two groups, namely the presence or absence of vision. Using this approach, one then concludes what the effects of the absence of vision are.

This approach has advantages and disadvantages. The chief advantage is that the frame of reference is clear – it is the developmental psychology, and the accompanying developmental norms, of the sighted child. For most areas of development, there is a vast accumulation of information about what the course of development looks like. Therefore, it is relatively easy to study the normative development of children with visual impairments and to compare the evidence with that for sighted children.