Adaptations for Young Children Who Are Visually Impaired

by Erin Monahan

Children with vision impairments will need to adapt to learn, but families and teachers can also learn some easy adaptations to facilitate that learning.

Blindness is legally defined as vision that is worse than 20/200, but visual impairments can also include congenital abnormalities that affect a child's ability to see, according to Virginia E. Bishop, Ph.D., who works with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Impairments can include the inability to see color, visual perception problems, including issues with depth of field, or total blindness.

Use Voice and Touch

Visually impaired children may be able to see what a teacher or family member is doing, but it doesn't always register properly or isn't viewed accurately. Teachers of blind and visually impaired children will call the child by name or touch him on the shoulder to make sure he knows he's included in the conversation or activity. Use voice to engage the child in what he is seeing or to issue directions-, a visually impaired child won't know you're smiling if you are gently teasing him. Bishop notes this will give you an idea of how your child sees things and will help you more easily create adaptations to help him.

Alter Learning Objects

When teaching a child with visual impairment, you'll need to purchase toys that are larger than normal and brightly colored. If the child is totally blind, use toys that have texture. A visually impaired child will find it easier to learn about a triangle if it is large and in a neon color and presented to her as only one triangle. As the child gains success with learning games, you'll be able to add to the number of objects, but they will always need to be brightly colored and large. Use hands-on learning tools whenever possible.

Create a Safe Environment

Make sure the child's environment is safe and free from obstacles. Make sure that children and adults know your child is visually impaired and won't always see a toy on the floor or a glass of water at the edge of a table. Tape down rugs--if you have them at all--to prevent tripping or slipping. Immediately remove any items dropped on the floor by other children. An article in the July/August 2001 issue of "Teaching Exceptional Children" suggests making a checklist of environmental adaptations that will need to be addressed.

Use Special Materials

Although many learning materials for sighted children can be used effectively with the visually impaired, these children will also need some tools just for them. These would include large-print books, black pens, thick-leaded pencils, braille books, additional light sources and magnification devices for reading or seeing the front of the classroom.


About this Author

Erin Monahan is an author and editor with 25 years experience. She has written on a variety of topics including celebrity interviews, health reporting and parenting. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers and national magazines, including "Wondertime," and on websites such as She was recently named one of the top writers in Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College.



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