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Organization of Your Visually Impaired Child’s Living and Learning Spaces

coat rack with colored tote bags hanging

Well organized living and learning spaces will support your child’s safety in moving about the environment, will enhance her independence, and will help them simplify responsibilities and tasks.

Imagine a typical morning routine void of methods of organization:

Your child wakes with limited time to ready themselves for school.

  • Your child brushes their teeth and then tosses the toothpaste haphazardly on the counter. [Hindrance: Randomly placed items (whether in the bathroom or elsewhere) are difficult to locate the next time they’re needed.]
  • Your child applies a hair product from the bathroom cabinet—and the cabinet door is left open. [Hindrance: Walking into open cabinets, drawers, or doors hurts and can cause injuries.]
  • Your child removes pants from their dresser and isn’t sure which shirt or shoes go together; they try on several of each and tosses the “this doesn’t quite fit, feel right, or match” clothing on the bed and shoes on the floor. [Hindrances: It can be complicated to identify and coordinate clothing that isn’t labeled or organized. Additionally, shoes or items randomly strewn across the floor are tripping hazards.]
  • Your child searches the not-so-organized fridge and pantry for something to make for breakfast. [Hindrance: It is difficult and time consuming to find what is on hand and what needs to be replaced or purchased when wardrobes, closets, refrigerators, cabinets, and pantries are unsystematic.]
  • It’s almost time for the bus; your child frantically searches for their backpack and homework—but, where are those? Ouch! They run into a box fan that wasn’t there yesterday! [Hindrances: It is frustrating to search for items without proper “homes”. Additionally, rearranging furniture/ floor fixtures unbeknownst to your child can be frustrating and hazardous.]

Naturally, without methods of organization your child is more likely to get hurt, seek assistance for independent living skills, and spend extra time and effort in the process of preparing for the day…and just think, this is merely highlighting the first hour upon waking!

Let’s minimize or eliminate these concerns and frustrations.

What Can We Systematize and Organize?

Furniture Arrangement

  • Keep furniture, organizational units, and other items that take up floor space such as lamps, coat hangers, magazine racks, trashcans, fans, floor mirrors, speakers, cushions, baskets, planters and side tables in consistent places, only rearranging if your child who is blind is aware. When updating or rearranging your home, enlist their help in moving items so they have familiarity with and some control over their new locations.
  • If your child routinely bumps into a piece of furniture such as a low side-table, move it to an alternate location—for example, to the side of the couch adjacent the wall instead of the side adjacent the path in the living room.
  • If strong light enhances or reduces your child’s usable vision, arrange chairs and desks near or away from windows.
  • If glare is a particular issue for your child, position wall and floor mirrors out of direct sunlight.
  • The entire family should practice the habit of pushing in chairs and closing drawers and doors after use.
  • Ensure electrical cords are behind furniture or taped to the ground.

Clothing Organization and Labeling

  • Organize drawers and closets either by like items or by coordinating outfits.
  • If sorting and storing matching outfits together, clip, compartmentalize, or hang them together.
  • Arrange small articles of clothing in the dresser using drawer separators. You may consider purchasing only two different styles of socks (all white athletic socks and all black dress socks) for simplification of sorting and choosing socks each day.
  • Label clothing that isn’t easily identifiable by touch. Be creative or purchase ready-made labels. You may sew or pin on clothing identifiers such as buttons or ribbons that symbolize certain colors, or clip braille or tactile labels to be removed when worn. If labels are permanently fixed on clothing pieces, consider hiding the labels in pockets or on the backside of existing tags to prevent skin irritation. Alternatively, you may choose to label hangers instead of the clothing items. See Organizing and Labeling Clothing for examples of labels.
  • Store out-of-season clothing away from the current wardrobe to make clothing selection and care more manageable.

General Storage Solutions

  • Every item should have a designated home and be put in its place after each use—the more specific the location, the better. For instance, instead of placing toothpaste on the general location of the counter, its home can be a caddy to the right of the sink. Make use of color contrast if your child has low vision; a dark colored caddy will be seen best on a light-colored countertop.
  • Utilize drawer separators. Instead of placing a talking calculator in a heap of electronics within the top right desk drawer, its home can be in a specific section of a drawer separator.
  • Utilize baskets and bins on counters and shelves as well as in closets, the pantry, and refrigerator. Store like items together, whether musical toys in a bin in the family room or cheeses in a bin in the fridge.
  • Make use of easily found storage containers such as Ziploc bags, craft supply containers, and tackle boxes to arrange smaller items such as jewelry, collections, or small toys.
  • Don’t store easily-knocked-off items on the edges of counters, tables, or desks.

Learning Spaces and School Supplies

  • Utilize file folders with large-print or braille tabs to store papers.
  • Organize digital files with the same attentiveness as hard-copy papers.
  • Store frequently used items in the most accessible locations such as a desktop organizer or the top drawer of a desk.
  • Remember, utilize drawer organizers.
  • Organize school books and notebooks on a shelf by class period.
  • Every academic and accessibility tool should have a specific home.
  • Eliminate clutter.

Labeling

  • If age appropriate, work with your child on identifying objects by touch. Label like items that aren’t easy to discriminate such hair products, medicine bottles, pantry items, cleaning supplies, and games.
  • Be creative with labeling. You can label index cards with braille or large-print and rubber band them onto cans or canisters. You can use tactile markers such as foam stickers, puffy paint, or Velcro to differentiate items. You can also purchase a braille labeler with adhesive tape.
  • Consider labeling the outside of bins with braille labels or with actual items found in the bin; a glued Lego can label the Lego bin.

How to Make the Changes

  • Identify the motivation. How would a streamlined organizational system benefit your child and family?
  • Identify the specific challenges. What needs improved systemizing and organizing?
  • Tackle one goal a time. Which goal would provide the greatest results? Start there.

If age appropriate, include your child in the entire process, from identifying the motivation and setting goals to organizing each room.

The effort invested in making and sustaining methods of organization will support your child’s safety and independence.