What are some effective strategies for working with children who have a visual impairment?
- Verbally and specifically narrate what is happening in the classroom at any given time so students always feel included
- Communicate with families and other professionals to share information and strategies
- Adapt activities to promote independence
- Provide multi-sensory, tactile, and experiential learning experiences
- Explore and use assistive technology and other accommodations, such as text-to-speech software
Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive and adaptive tools as well as instructional services that can enhance communication, access, and learning. It can include electronic equipment such as switches, mobile devices, and portable notetakers; computer access such as magnification software, screen readers, and keyboarding; and low-tech devices such as an abacus, a brailler, Active Learning materials (e.g., Little Room®), and optical devices.
Career education will provide students with visual impairments of all ages the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences about jobs that they may not otherwise be aware of without the ability to observe people working. They also learn work-related skills such as assuming responsibility, punctuality, and staying on task. Career education provides opportunities for students to explore and discover strengths and interests and plan for transition to adult life.
Compensatory skills include skills necessary for accessing the core curriculum including concept development; communication modes; organization and study skills; access to print materials; and the use of braille/Nemeth, tactile graphics, object and/or tactile symbols, sign language, and audio materials.
Expanded Core Curriculum
The term expanded core curriculum (ECC) is used to define concepts and skills that often require specialized instruction with students who are blind or visually impaired in order to compensate for decreased opportunities to learn incidentally by observing others.
Independent Living Skills
Independent living skills include the tasks and functions people perform in daily life to increase their independence and contribute to the family structure. These skills include personal hygiene, eating skills, food preparation, time and money management, clothing care, and household tasks. People with vision typically learn such daily routines through observation, whereas individuals with visual impairments often need systematic instruction and frequent practice in these daily tasks.
Orientation and Mobility (O&M)
O&M instruction enables students of all ages and motor abilities to be oriented to their surroundings and to move as independently and safely as possible. Students learn about themselves and their environments, including home, school, and community. O&M lessons incorporate skills ranging from basic body image, spatial relationships, and purposeful movement to cane usage, travel in the community, and use of public transportation. Having O&M skills enables students to acquire independence to the greatest extent possible, based on their individual needs and abilities.
Recreation and Leisure
Being unable to observe others reduces awareness of recreation and leisure options. Instruction in recreation and leisure skills will ensure that students with visual impairments will have opportunities to explore, experience, and choose physical and leisure-time activities, both organized and individual, that they enjoy. This instruction should focus on the development of life-long skills.
Self-determination includes choice-making, decision-making, problem solving, personal advocacy, assertiveness, and goal setting. Students with visual impairments often have fewer opportunities to develop and practice the specific skills that lead to self-determination. Students who know and value who they are and who have self-determination skills become effective advocates for themselves and therefore have more control over their lives.
Sensory efficiency includes instruction in the use of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. It also addresses the development of the proprioceptive, kinesthetic, and vestibular systems. Learning to use their senses efficiently, including the use of optical devices, will enable students with visual impairments to access and participate in activities in school, home, and community environments.
Social Interaction Skills
Social interaction skills include awareness of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and personal space. Instruction also includes learning about interpersonal relationships, self-control, and human sexuality. Almost all social skills are learned by visually observing other people. Instruction in social interaction skills in school, work, and recreational settings is crucial. Having appropriate social skills can often mean the difference between social isolation and a fulfilling life as an adult.
According to IDEA
- Impairments that – even with correction – negatively impact a student’s educational performance
- Include partial site and blindness
Videos and Tech Tool
- Maryland School for the Blind – Multimedia Gallery
- Design with the Blind in Mind, How thoughtful designs enhance a person’s life and might actually make everyone’s life better, sighted or not.
- Touchscreen Braille Writer (Tech Tool)
- Growing Up Legally Blind
by The Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education