Visual Impairments in the Classroom
PSY 333 – Psychology of Exceptional Children
My initial thoughts concerning teaching children with a visual impairment or children who are blind was that it would be a huge challenge. How could I insure their safety in the classroom, the school, or on the playground? How would I deliver lessons in a way to maximize their learning potential? How would I assess and evaluate their progress? Through reading, research and class discussions I now believe it will be a challenge but a manageable one.
Teachers must focus on the abilities of children with exceptionalities and teach to their learning styles and behaviours. Children who are visually impaired or blind will be auditory, tactile, kinesthetic learners. Those who are visually impaired may also be limited visual learners depending on their degree of sight. They will require extensive hands-on experiences and auditory stimulation as well as development of their listening skills. Following constructivist theory we must encourage children to attain their zone of proximal development while offering support and guidance so students may reach their highest learning potential. For students who are blind or visually impaired this means differentiations, accommodations and modifications may need to be put in place.
The technology currently available to assist children with this exceptionality was a pleasing discovery for me. It has made classroom learning much more accessible to many students. The various assistive technologies for visual impairments and blindness are too numerous to list. One of note is the Henter-Joyce, JAWS for Windows (JFW). It is a screen-reading package with speech output and Braille access to Windows newest operating systems. The software produces a synthesized voice to read text and also offers Braille output over speech (Smith, T. 2006, p. 217). Also of note is the Mowat Sensor, (a hand held ultrasound travel aid that vibrates at different levels to warn of obstacles) and laser canes (a device which uses sound to introduce objects in a person’s path).
A journal article I found which is particularly informative is Effective Classroom Adaptations for Students With Visual Impairments (Cox, P. and Dykes, M., 2001). It emphasized the need for teachers and other school support staff to collaborate with orientation and mobility specialists, vision specialists and other professionals to receive proper training. They should all be part of a team to ensure that students are receiving appropriate services and accommodations. This enables teachers to fashion learning experiences appropriate for their students (Cox, P. and Dykes, M., 2001 p. 72). The article goes on to discuss how to use tactile and kinesthetic learning, auditory and visual learning and the accommodations students may require. It states that any modifications of the “academic curriculum appropriate for students with visual impairments is determined by their cognitive abilities. The goals and objectives set for students without visual impairments do not need to be changed for a student due solely to a vision problem, though the methods of accomplishing the goals may be different” (Cox, P. and Dykes, M., 2001 p. 73).
A concern addressed in the article, Promoting the Self-Determination of Students with Visual Impairments: Reducing the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice, (Agran, M. 2007) (see attachment) examines the extent to which students with visual impairments receive instruction in self-determination. This involves teaching students to set goals “monitor their performances, identify solutions to present or future problems, verbally direct their own behaviours, reinforce themselves or evaluate their own performances” (Agran, M. 2007 p.453). The survey results indicate that relatively few students are receiving this instruction. It further showed that students who had no sight were given fewer opportunities at...
Bibliography: Agran, M., Hong, S. and Blankenship, K. (2007). Promoting the Self-Determination of Students with Visual Impairments: Reducing the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 101 (8) 453.
Hallahan, Daniel P., Kauffman, James M. (2003). Exceptional Learners: Introduction to Special Education. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Boston,
Heward, William L
Smith, Derrick W. and Kelley, P. (2007). A Survey of Assistive Technology and Teacher Preparation Programs for Individuals with Visual Impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 101 (7) 429.
Smith, Tom E.C., Polloway, Edward A., Patton, James R., Dowdy, Carol A., Heath, Nancy, McIntyre, Laureen J., Francis, Garnett C. (2006). Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings. Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Canada Inc.
Keller, Ed (1999)
Lichman, Anita (2002). Helping to Integrate Visually Impaired Students Into the Public School System. Available at http://idid.essortment.com/visuallyimpai_rfwj.htm
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