Our family is fortunate to live close to the beach, a 7-10 minute drive and we are dipping our toes in the sand at one of many Sunshine Coast beaches. As with everything else we do with Eva, encouraging use of her vision is vital at the beach. Safety is paramount and as she doesn’t use her cane at the beach, we are always with her, either holding her hand or standing next to her. Eva loves the beach and she has a great time running and jumping over the waves…which is visual lesson 1 at the beach! Read on to see how we have incorporated visual learning at the beach!
LESSON 1: Watch for the white foam coming towards you. This is a wave and it will crash against you if you don’t jump over it!
We have re-iterated to Eva over and over that the ocean is blue/green/dark and when you see a strip of white coming towards you, it’s a wave that has formed and it will move closer until it breaks. Eva looks for the white strip each and every time and jumps over it. This is a great visual stimulation exercise incorporated in playtime, Eva has no idea we are teaching her how to use her vision in a situation where there is usually lots of noise (kids, birds, waves!), visual clutter (sand, people, moving waves) and concentrating when her body is moving, and finally getting her body moving together with her eyes. Watching the waves has now become a game that she plays with her 4 year old brother and they spend literally hours jumping waves. Sometimes Eva sits at the shore and waits for the waves to crash over her legs…and sometimes they crash a little higher, which she finds very funny!
LESSON 2: Search for objects
The local beaches we visit all have an easy palate of orange sand for Eva to identify anything that may not be sand. When I finally convince her to stop jumping waves, we sit on the sand and start searching for anything that may stand out to her visually. Admittedly, we don’t have many seashells that are in one piece but we do manage to find broken shells that are darker than sand. We also take a walk along the sand and I ask Eva to find the seaweed as we are walking – this is easier to spot as it’s larger. I also ask Eva to spot any Jellyfish, which you may think is difficult as they have no colour (they are clear) but if she is concentrating on the ground she can spot out the Jellyfish by the outline of the marine animal.
Eva has become so good at finding objects in the sand that she can also spot out any inconsistences in the sand at night! We found working on contrast is a key lesson when searching for objects, we started with large, obvious objects and have been narrowing it down to harder-to find-objects
LESSON 3: Find the tracks
All the local beaches we visit are patrolled, and the lifeguards frequently patrol in buggies on the sand which leave tyre marks. The first time Eva noticed them, we explained what they were and she was intrigued by the marks they left. We now sometimes use the tracks as a guide for Eva to follow when we walk along the sand.
We don’t just point out tyre tracks, we also make our own designs in the sand and practice writing letters (and our name). Recently, Eva made a great visual observation when I drew the following design on the sand, can you guess what her observation was?
I drew the above pattern on the sand (unintentional by the way, I was just ‘doodling’), Eva takes a look and says to me, “Hey that’s like the tyre tracks!”. Proud mum moment right there to see she was using her visual memory to compare something we had seen another time to what she was looking at that very moment. In other words, Eva’s CVI brain was using past influencers to put a picture together of what was in front of her, this reinforces that all the visual exercise we do daily whether it is intentional or unintentional, is finding a place in her visual memory bank. Let’s not discount that she used other non-visual stimuli to make the connection, these factors are just as important!
I really didn’t realise how many unintentional visual lessons we were undertaking with Eva at the beach until I started writing this blog piece. My initial focus was going to solely be on the tyre tracks, but when I started thinking more about what we do at the beach, I realised there was SO much we were using vision for! I would love to hear what else you observe when you are out at the beach (or anywhere else!) with your CVI kiddo and we can start compiling a check list for our kiddos!