Children who have visual impairments may be legally blind or have low vision and may, therefore, require assistance with their classroom learning. The level of support needed varies depending on the nature and degree of vision loss. While most children with visual impairments are able to function in the mainstream classroom, there are steps teachers can take to make learning easier. The American Council of the Blind points out that, with the proper teaching tools and access to an effective learning environment, a visually impaired child can receive a rewarding education.
Build a rapport with the child from the start. Understand the extent of the child's vision loss. A student may possess low vision or perhaps be partially blind and, therefore, may require different learning aids than his seeing counterparts. Knowing at what age a student began to have problems with his vision can give a teacher a better idea of how much visual memory a child might have.
Describe the classroom to the child and help her gain a sense of spatial position. Give her time to orient herself in the classroom. Use tactile means to familiarize her with the layout of the room and teaching equipment, as well as where to find supplies. Do not move furnishings, equipment or materials from their normal positions unless you inform the child of any changes.
Seat the child near the front of the classroom and away from windows and other sources of glaring light. Teachers should not stand with their backs to a window as this can create a silhouette that is difficult for a visually impaired child to see. Make use of contrast and color to denote different areas in the classroom.
Call the student by name to get her attention in the classroom. Always speak to the class in general whenever entering or exiting the room.
Ask children to wear their eyeglasses in the classroom. Younger children in particular may need help when first developing the habit of wearing eyeglasses.
Provide textbooks, handouts and other printed assignments in large, bold print or Braille. Order instructional equipment and other low vision aids, such as electronic white boards, audible screen readers and books with tactile illustrations, which the student can use for learning.
Read written instructions and other information aloud when necessary. Give all assignments orally. Pay close attention to details when describing anything associated with the lesson. Inform the student in advance if you plan to use a video in a lesson. Ask one of the other students to watch the video with the visually impaired student in order to describe any visual aspects.
Explain in detail any visual learning activities. Refrain from using gestures and avoid the use of vague terms when speaking. Use descriptive words in any explanations. Spell out new words or technical terms. Try to give the student a first-hand tactile example whenever possible.
- American Council of the Blind: IDEA Task Force White Paper
- West Virginia University: Strategies for Teaching Students with Vision Impairments
- University of Cambridge: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
- Teaching Expertise: Supporting Children With Visual Impairments
About this Author
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years' experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering health, fitness and women's issues published in Family Digest Magazine, Chicago Parent and Woman's Touch. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.