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Blind students with white canes waiting to cross Congress Avenue, a busy six lane road.

by Chris Strickling

Sensory Development

For the infant born without sight, the other senses have intermittent input and may appear diminished. The child receives inconsistent, discrete, and generally unverified fragments of information.

Hearing is the only distance sense available to the blind infant, but the infant has no control over the presence or absence of sound in his environment. Sound without visual verification is only noise coming from nowhere. Only after much tactual, motor, and auditory interaction does sound acquire meaning. Only then can sound provide information about location, cause, or source.

Sound is not the strong motivator that vision is. Not until approximately 12 months - will a blind child reach for an object based on sound cue alone. Environmental exploration. is usually delayed until the child reaches this point.

Normally the incentive for tactile exploration is supplied by visual dimensions: color, pattern, shape, location. These dimensions are unavailable to a blind infant; therefore, purposeful tactile activity is minimal because the environment remains unknown and uninviting.

Motor Development

Hands

Although the hands are a major perceptual organ, a blind infant has significant developmental delays in his ability to employ his hands functionally.

Even at 5 months a blind infant's hands will be fisted and held at shoulder height. There will be no mutual fingering, no engaging at the midline. At this age, a sighted child is practicing coordinated reaching and transference of objects from one hand to another.)

This delay in hand utilization will result in delayed fine motor and gross motor development. .

Without vision, hand and eye do not work together. Instead, ear- hand coordination must occur. However this takes much experience and is achieved much later than normal eye- hand coordination.

Body

A blind infant usually achieves control of his posture at approximately the same age as sighted infants through the following normal progression:

  • sits alone momentarily
  • rolls from back to stomach
  • sits alone steadily
  • takes stepping movements when hands are held
  • stands alone
  • bridges on hands and knees

However, the achievements that require self- initiated mobility are significantly delayed:

  • elevated on arms in prone
  • raising to a sitting position
  • pulling to a stand
  • walking alone

Until a blind child will reach out to grasp a sound cue (12 months), he will not move out in space either on hands and knees or feet.

The blind child’s difficulty or reluctance in moving around the environment encourages passive behavior such as self- stimulating mannerisms.

Self- Concept

The blind child has an unusual dependence on a sighted person to mediate and help integrate his environment. This notion of dependence must be considered as a major factor in the blind child s development.

The blind child has diminished control over his environment and can only control his inner world. As he withdraws into this world, he diminishes the need for social interaction.

He may not understand that there is a complex world outside of himself, that he is separate from it, that he can both act on it and be the recipient of action.

Cognitive Development

Construct of World

The blind child has limited ability to coordinate and organize elements into higher levels of abstraction, and to verify the information. Therefore, he constructs a reality that is different from the sighted child's. The process of establishing concept-defining attributes and relationships is more problematic for the blind child and less accessible to guidance. The blind child is continually involved in problem solving, but this process, which is essential to future development, is more difficult and less rewarding for him.

Object Permanence

A stable visual field is the basis of object permanence and other conceptual tasks. Object permanence cannot be obtained by a blind child until he has the ability to reach for objects based on sound cue alone. It is acquired nearly a year later than in sighted children.

Causal Relationship

Since the results of actions cannot be seen, the blind child may not be motivated to action. He may not understand his ability to cause things to happen or to retain pleasurable stimuli.

Constancy

Understanding how to align blocks or orient his hands on a page in order to duplicate a pattern will be difficult if he hasn't observed objects in various orientations to know that an object is the same regardless of its position in space.

Classification

Limited opportunities to explore objects and to see similarities are reflected in preschool blind children's classification errors. Concepts of same and different can evolve only if children identify the distinguishing variable on which to focus. A blind child has little difficulty generalizing across size, but numerous experiences with a variety of similar objects were required to expedite generalization and association skills.

Conservation

A blind child exhibits delays in conservation of substance, weight, volume, length and liquids.

Social Development

Relationships

In a sighted child the mutual smile between infant and mother is the beginning of attachment, recognition, and communication. The blind child will smile at 2 months in recognition of his mother's voice, but only nuzzling or tickling will regularly elicit a smile.

In later years, the child appears to have ambivalent emotional involvement and appears disinterested, non- communicative, and uninformed about the rudiments of play with his peers. Consequently, he may be avoided by his peers and rejected or overprotected by strangers and relatives.

All in all, his social interactions are more complicated because subtle visual cues are missing and facial expressions are lost.

Self- Help

Many self-help skills that are normally learned by watching are delayed in blind children.

Chewing, scooping, self-feeding skills may be delayed 2 years or more. Brushing teeth is difficult to accomplish since the child may reject the texture and has no opportunity to observe others performing grooming skills.

Fear of the unknown and inability to locate the bathroom may contribute to delayed toilet training.

Language Development

Imitation

Much of what is learned by the normal child is learned by imitating others.

Total communication; including signing and fingerspelling, is rooted in the development of imitation. Imitation signals the beginning of symbolic meaning in a child.

The blind child needs planned, systematic instruction directed at the development of deferred imitation.

Use of Language

The blind infant may jabber and imitate sooner than a sighted child, but may show delay when combining words to make his wants known.

The blind child primarily uses language to satisfy his immediate needs or to describe current activities.

He initiates few questions and his use of adjectives is sparse.

The blind child may take in the sounds which make up the language, but may not grasp the meaning intended by the speaker. His sensory experiences are not readily coded into language. He may store phrases and sentences in his memory and repeat them out of context.

The blind child often has a language that is echolalic preservative and meaningless.

The early language of the blind child does not seem to mirror his developing knowledge of the world, but rather his knowledge of the language of others.

Personal Pronoun

To correctly use the personal pronoun “I”, a child must have established a sense of himself as separate from the environment. Since the development of self- concept in a blind child is delayed, he tends to confuse the use of personal pronouns, extending the use of the second and third personal pronouns or his own name to refer to himself.

Experience

The blind child is often hesitant to explore because of fear of the unknown. He is also often discouraged from exploration by adults who are overprotective. Without concrete experiences, the child will not develop meaningful concepts or the language to describe or think about them.

 

Sorting and classifying are fundamental parts of life and are used on a daily basis. Forming "classes" is an essential element of mathematical reasoning, as it is the basis for all conceptual development.

Sorting activities should always begin with real objects before moving on to toys and typical educational materials.

Sorting activities should begin with two very different objects before moving on to similar objects, and three or more objects.

ROCKS OR SHELLS

  • big/little
  • smooth/rough
  • white/brown

FRUITS

  • peeled/unpeeled
  • whole/half/sliced, etc.
  • color

BEANS

  • big/little
  • brown/white (pinto/lima)

VEGGIES

  • edible/non-edible
  • color
  • cooked/raw

NUTS

  • pecans/walnuts, etc.
  • whole/half
  • shelled/unshelled

EDIBLES VS. NON-EDIBLES

COINS

  • big/little
  • thick/thin
  • copper/silver

LETTERS

  • 3-D/1-D (magnetic vs. print)
  • A/B, etc.
  • Capital/lower case

PENCILS

  • long/short
  • fat/thin
  • sharpened/unsharpened

NUMBERS

  • 1 item glued on card/2 items
  • ½, etc.

CRAYONS

  • red/blue, etc.
  • big/little
  • thick/thin
  • round/flat

CANS

  • big/little
  • heavy/light
  • full/empty
  • by contents of can

SNACK FOODS

  • cereal/raisins
  • goldfish crackers/M&Ms
  • cookies/crackers
  • weight
  • type
  • shapes
  • numbers

SILVERWARE

  • forks/spoons, etc.
  • big/little
  • metal/plastic

You can also sort by size, shape and color. Following are some examples to use when sorting by shape.

RECTANGLE

  • kleenex box
  • video tapes
  • picture frame
  • cassette tapes
  • books envelope
  • egg cartons
  • new bars of soap
  • hand towels

SIZE

SQUARE

  • cracker
  • computer discs
  • bread slices
  • wash cloth

COLOR

CIRCLE

  • balls
  • life savers
  • banana slices
  • cookies
  • crackers
  • lids
  • donuts

COMPOSITE MATERIAL

  • metal/wood
  • plastic/glass

Infants: Below are additional roles and responsibilities that the VI teacher assumes for infants.

  1. Acquire and expand information about impact of visual impairment on child's development, working with families, current research, resources, etc.
  2. Acquire information and follow all IDEA Part H (ECI) timelines and requirements.
  3. Screen referrals for functional vision performance.
  4. Administer Functional Vision Assessments for identified infants. (On-going; update for 6 month reviews & IFSP)
  5. Administer Learning Media Assessments for identified infants. (On-going; update for 6 month reviews & IFSP)
  6. Consult with Early Childhood Intervention staff and parents concerning assessments (INSITE, E-LAP, Hawaii, Oregon, etc.) and evaluations, modifications, strategies, impact of vision loss, vision screening, TEA VI requirements (TEA Registration, TEA VI Supplemental Form, etc.), workshop and conference information. Provide them with information regarding the unique needs of the VI infant and assure that they fully understand those needs.
  7. Develop IFSP with team. Attend annual and six-month IFSP meetings.
  8. Provide services to visually impaired infants and parent training as outlined on the IFSP. Areas may include:
    • Learning Media--ensure the child has opportunities to have toys and activities to use all sensory modalities.
    • Bonding with family members
    • Motor--Gross, Fine, and O&M/Early Movement
    • Self-Help--Eating and Drinking, Dressing and Undressing, Toileting, Personal Hygiene, Sleeping Patterns
    • Cognition--Body Concepts, Object Exploration and Manipulation, Experience-Based Early Concept Development, Problem-Solving
    • Social-Emotional
    • Communication--Receptive and Expressive
    • Sensory--Vision (Low Vision Efficiency Training, Large Print/Pictures/Books, Optical Devices), Auditory/Listening Skills, Tactual (Pre-Braille/Tactile Symbols), Vestibular, Sensory Integration
    • Family Needs
    • Adaptive Devices
  9. Travel to infant's home to deliver home instruction and parent training.
  10. Act as consultant to day care providers, extended family members, Early Childhood Intervention staff, Related Service Staff, etc. when needed.
  11. Order adaptive and tactual aids.
  12. Monitor identified visually impaired students.
  13. Act as a liaison and consultant with the following persons/staff:
    • Commission for the Blind case workers
    • doctors, ophthalmologists, neurologists
    • parents and other caregivers
    • district support personnel
    • orientation and mobility specialist
    • occupational therapist
    • physical therapist
    • speech therapist
    • Education Service Center staff
    • Early Childhood Intervention staff
  14. Provide information and materials to help ensure the VI infant's home is an appropriate learning environment (lighting needs, wide variety of objects/toys to explore and manipulate, Little Room, light box, etc.)
  15. Ensure that parents have opportunities to meet and obtain information about visual impairment issues at parent meetings, workshops, conferences, etc. These can be held locally or regionally with ISD staff working with local resources such as ESC, TCB, ECI, etc. Parents can also be encouraged to attend state workshops and conferences (TCB, TSBVI, etc. can be contacted for possible financial assistance.).
  16. Participate in transition planning.
  17. Perform other duties as required for Special Education such as:
    • attend annual IFSPs (required) and 6-month reviews (strongly suggested), staff meetings, etc.
    • maintain student folders
    • update/maintain eligibility folders
    • follow required duties for Special Education
    • follow IDEA Part H timelines and requirements
    • complete paperwork for re-evaluation
    • maintain materials inventory
  18. Register VI infant with TEA.

Developed by TSBVI Outreach.

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

DIRECT

  1. Direct contact with student and family--can occur in home, day-care, etc.
  2. Provide hands-on instruction and demonstration
  3. Provide materials, adaptations
  4. Provide information about the child's eye condition, vision, ophthalmological report, implications, strategies, etc. to the family
  5. Provide initial and ongoing assessment
  6. Manage behaviors impacted by vision loss
  7. Instruction in compensatory skills:
    • Bonding with family
    • Communication: Receptive & Expressive
    • Motor: Gross, Fine, O&M/Early Movement
    • Sensory: Vision, Auditory, Tactual, Vestibular, Sensory Integration
    • Self-Help: Eating & Drinking, Dressing & Undressing, Toileting, Personal Hygiene, Sleeping Patterns
    • Cognition: Object Exploration and Manipulation, Experience-Based Early Concept Development, Problem-Solving
    • Family Needs
    • Pre-Braille/Tactile Symbols
    • Social-Emotional
    • Large Print/Pictures/Books
    • Optical Devices
    • Adaptive Devices
  8. ALWAYS INCLUDES CONSULTATION
  9. Conduct on-going student observations in a variety of settings

CONSULT

  1. Consult with other professionals
  2. Provide training to other professionals on implications and strategies
  3. Conduct on-going student observation in a variety of settings
  4. Participate in initial and on-going assessments
  5. Provide recommendations for appropriate VI educational strategies and modifications
  6. Provide and transport materials and equipment
  7. Demonstrate teaching strategies
  8. Provide parent training and support (meetings, workshops, socials, etc.)
  9. Consult with O & M Instructor
  10. Team with educational and related service staff, and parents for planning and instruction
  11. Coordinate with related agencies and community resources
  12. Receive training as needed from other professionals for working effectively with baby and family (OT, PT, AI Teacher, Social Worker, Speech Path., etc.)

Developed by the TSBVI Outreach Department.

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.