chapter  7
20 Pages

Knowledge and Its Expression in the Blind Child

The question to be raised about these and related phenomena is exactly where the effects of the experimental deficit should be assigned. Perhaps the absence of visual experience has permanent and significant effects on the organization of knowledge much as we know there to be permanent and significant effects on the neuronal organization of the visual system, when the organism is deprived of early exposure to light. This possibility for the development of knowledge in the blind has historical roots in the empiricist program but is still active today in a variety of contexts. For example, Piaget (cited in Cromer, 1973) suggested that limitations in the opportunities for the blind child to exercise sensorimotor schemata might induce permanent defects in the development of knowledge, as he considered these elements the primary building blocks of true knowledge. Selma Fraiberg (1977) described the world of the blind infant as a "spatial void" and suggested that blindness could lead to permanent deficits in cognitive development. T. G. Bower (1977) stated that the blind child apparently never develops a spatial framework but rather spontaneously uses a temporal one to organize the world. These views suggest fundamental differences in the organization of knowledge in the blind compared to the sighted.