This is a first mixed-methods study, which created, adapted and tested the feasibility of a training programme targeted at parents, community professionals, specialist teachers and volunteers to provide advice on developmental stimulation for children with visual impairment in their homes in rural and urban settings of Malawi. The study followed guidance from the Medical Research Council Framework for Developing and Evaluating Complex Interventions and drew on a bioecological model to help understand the feasibility of a new intervention in Malawi for 30 children with visual impairment and their carers in three districts of southern Malawi.
We trained 14 community workers and specialist teachers, then piloted the programme, which we linked to Care for Child Development (a World Health Organization/United Nations Children’s training package), over 6 months. Findings show that the new programme enabled workers and parents to be more positive towards their children with disabilities, improving relationships and responsiveness in their interactions. Drawing on the findings of the feasibility study, outcomes identified for a trial include measures of communication, child development, family care environment, participation and inclusion.
This study has significance in providing a methodology that can be drawn upon to develop similar training programmes for use with children with a wider range of disabilities. The article has particular relevance to institutions and organisations working in early childhood development in that it provides a model to aid the development of tailored training programmes for children with visual impairment. It puts forward a table of 10 key messages on how best to prepare young children with visual impairment for life at school and for life after school.