Most children learn first by sight, thus, educational systems are geared toward sight learning from a young age. However, visually impaired children have the same educational goals as their un-impaired counterparts. The challenges these children face requires some simple adjustments be made the classroom to allow them to reach their scholarly goals. Here are a few techniques we can begin implementing to give these children the greatest possible advantage for their futures.
- A child with vision impairment may have difficulties with the normal seating in the classroom. Adjusting the height and angle of the surface can have a large impact on his/her ability to observe and fully participate. If such a seat is not available, a reading stand may be helpful.
- Children should be placed as near to the front of the class as possible. This allows the child to observe with minimal distractions, be closer to the subject matter, and visible to the teacher should a difficulty arise.
- Work surface space is also a concern, as children with visual impairments frequently have large print books, or braille books, which are usually larger than standard reading material.
Lighting the Learning Space
- Students may also need help managing the glare, which can be visually exhausting. A table cloth may help with their work surface, or they may wear tinted glasses. However, other students might need more light and so a simple reading light may help them tremendously. Light should come from above and over the dominant hand if at all possible.
Chalkboards and Projectors
- A slate chalk board in a classic grey green may be helpful to reduce glare in the classroom. Keeping the board as clean as possible will also help with legibility and contrast. Limited amounts of information should be written on the board at one time. Try and keep writing at the eye level of the children.
- The use of an overhead projector can have an advantage over the chalkboard as writing can be enlarged quickly and projected over a larger area. You are also able to highlight words as needed or project them in a different color.
Visual Classroom Displays
- Move displays away from windows as much as possible to reduce the glare. Keep displays touchable and colorful with lots of high contrast color combinations such as purple on yellow. Keeping such items at eye level will also help children interact with them.
- Teaching by using many gestures or other visual cues may not always be seen by lower vision students. It is important not to rely on these methods. The teacher should be sure to use their voice while writing on the boards or communicating. Encourage hands on learning, especially for younger children, by including many kinesthetic and tactile experiences for the children.
- The Teacher may also need specialized educational material for these children. These may not always be easily or readily available and it may be necessary to order them before the school year begins. Adjustments in schedule and classroom layout may also be needed and the teacher needs to be adequately prepared to handle the change in routine in order to help the student feel as much a part of the group as possible.
Identifying children’s visual issues as early as possible is key to ensuring they begin their educational career with the highest level of success. Children with visual disabilities have been proven to be very successful in mainstream classrooms, provided accommodations are made by both teachers and the learning environment. Monterey Bay Eye Center is a leading source for eye treatment and eye examinations, and our experienced eye doctors take a personal approach to each patient. Schedule your child’s consultation today.
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