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By Elsie Rao, VI Teacher, Tyler Independent School District

Teaching children who are braille readers is unique. With minor adjustments and some adaptations, classroom teachers can discover how to be successful. The first step is to realize what learning has been like for a student with no or very limited vision. Without normal vision, a child has to be taught the basics of everything; how to sit up, crawl, eat, play, etc. Eighty percent of what a sighted baby learns comes through the sense of sight, so it makes sense that a child without vision will not learn incidentally. This makes early childhood intervention and instruction critical to learning and development. Even with early instruction, blind children will usually function below his/her sighted peers since there is so much to learn. Even so, there are some lessons in life that cannot be fully understood without sight. For instance, what does tall mean? How does one explain the difference between a tall man, a tall tree, and a tall building to someone who has never seen? Describe the white clouds in the blue sky. Tell how the town looks after the tornado hit. Describe the facial expression of the person who is horrified.

Teachers who work with blind children must help these students comprehend and implement basic skills and concepts, like round for example. A blind child must be taught that coins are round, balls are round, and tires are also round. These are just a few examples of objects that are round. The student may not understand how "roundness" applies to all of these objects since they are different sizes, and they feel so different. When the concept is fully understood, the student will be able to apply the concept of "roundness" to all objects. Rarely will a young severely visually impaired (VI) child comprehend and master a lesson in one sitting. It will probably take many lessons to completely teach a concept like round since it has to be taught in so many different settings.

There will also be instances when a blind student will use a word correctly in a sentence, but may not know the meaning of the word. Once, a student told me that her dad had new contacts after I mentioned to her that I had new glasses. When I asked her what a contact was, she said she did not know. Also, the English language is filled with words which can be used in so many ways, and sometimes the meanings get confusing. For instance, a bird flies, a jet flies, but how does a flag fly? Effective teachers will constantly ask questions or create situations that require the blind student to demonstrate the understanding of the word. The education of a VI child can be compared to a building. One block of knowledge rests on top of another, like one floor rests on another. The question is, will the building be a one-story structure or will it be a high-rise? Another way to visualize this is to picture an inverted triangle. Leaning starts with just one small concept. This concept is expanded and used to teach another, and then another. So the pyramid is built from the bottom up.

Now that you have some examples of how learning for a blind child is different from teaching sighted students, or now that you "see" what they don't "see", let’s look at some tips that may be helpful to use in the classroom.

Some General Facts Regarding Braille Students:

  • The “Golden Rule” in teaching blind children is to never do anything for them that they can do for themselves.
  • Remember that this student is just like all the others, except for the visual impairment. It is a child you are teaching, not a blind person.
  • Schedule a time to meet the student so you can introduce yourself and get acquainted in a one to one setting. This is also an excellent time to let the student investigate your classroom.
  • During the first meeting, have the student explain how he/she writes, reads, takes notes, etc. Schedule a time when this information can be shared with the class. Regular students are always interested in the special equipment, so if you give them an opportunity to examine it, they are less likely to be distracted by it when it is used.
  • Have the student explain his/her eye condition. This is an important skill that the student will need the rest of his/her life. Each time he/she tells the story, it becomes a little easier to explain
  • Some students have a little vision. Ask the student to tell you what he/she can see.
  • Tell the child when you are going to touch him/her. Otherwise, your touch may startle the child or be a threat.
  • Remember that about 70% of all communication is non-verbal. A blind student does not see the expression on your face, the gestures you make, or know what you are wearing. This is vital information that the child must learn to pick up from other reactions that are going on in the classroom. It is very helpful to the blind person for someone to explain situations as they occur.
  • Tape record conversations or lessons so you can hear your voice. Your VI student will recognize and judge you by the sound of your voice; just as sighted people tend to judge others by the way they look. This student will form an opinion of you by listening to your voice. You need to be aware of how you sound to others.
  • Always introduce yourself when you meet and/or greet the student, and encourage other students and staff to do the same. In time most VI students learn to identify people by the sound of their voice. Please discourage others from walking up to the student and asking, "Who am I?" This puts the student on the spot and can be embarrassing. How would you feel if someone walked up to you and asked the same question and you had forgotten their name?
  • When speaking to the student, say his/her name first. Otherwise, the student may not know you are speaking to him/her. There are usually so many sounds in a classroom that are distracting. Calling the student's name is like making eye contact with a sighted person.
  • Teach the rest of the class to use the blind student’s name when addressing him/her, and to add their name to what they are saying. (Practicing this is very helpful.) This will really help the child learn his/her classmates’ names, and will also help him/her make friends.
  • Do not let the child use his/her handicapping condition as a crutch. Expect the student to be responsible and respectful, just like all the other students.
  • There will be times when an adaptation is needed and not available. Verbalize the situation and involve the VI student in the development of a solution. This helps the student learn to be a problem solver. Assisting in a situation such as this helps to strengthen and improve a student's self-esteem by empowering him/her to take control over his/her learning, his/her life, and his/her education.
  • Encourage and create situations where the blind student is actively involved in helping someone else. Too often, special education students are taught to receive, but not to give. Sighted people can see the joy in someone's eye when help is given. A person without vision has to learn how to help and glean reward from the experience.
  • Do not change your vocabulary. Phrase like, "Do you see?" are common expressions that everyone uses. Remember that you are trying to help the VI child learn to live in a sighted world.
  • Give the student the grade he/she earned. Giving an inflated grade does not help the student learn or be successful.
  • If you observe ink or food on the VI student's body or clothing, discretely inform them of the problem.

Classroom Considerations:

  • Each classroom needs storage space for the braille textbooks. Every state-adopted book is available in braille; however, it will be in several large volumes.
  • Braille students require a large work area because of the size of the books and equipment. Have an extra desk or a table available for them to use.
  • Cooperative learning or group work is an effective teaching method to use with a braille student. It encourages the development of friendships and improves learning.
  • Each VI student will have a modification sheet that will be handed out to you at the beginning of the year or semester. Please ask the teacher of the visually impaired if you do not understand the modifications. These are REQUIRED since they are part of the student's IEP, Individualized Educational Program.
  • Arrange for someone to sit next to the VI student during movies, assemblies, or special events to explain what is happening. This really helps the child make sense of the occasion, helps them stay focused, and discourages daydreaming.
  • Have high expectations for the VI student. Expect him/her to follow the same rules of behavior and produce the same quality of work as all the others.
  • Develop an emergency plan with the student. Practice evacuating the classroom or school with the teacher and with an alternate, which can be a responsible student.
  • Insist that the student use his/her mobility skills when moving about the classroom or school. Ask the orientation and mobility teacher for help if you do no understand.

Other Information:

  • Give a copy of materials that need to be brailled to the VI teacher a week ahead of time. It takes longer to braille a worksheet than it does to type it. Some math worksheets can take up to one hour to prepare. Please give as much time as possible to produce the work.
  • Complete the quarterly report the VI teacher sends to you each six weeks. This is an excellent way to improve communication between the teachers.
  • At the beginning of the year or semester, tell the VI teacher about special projects or papers that will be required. Advance notice allows the student and teacher to request special materials from the State library.
  • Social skills are usually a weak area for VI students. If you notice a student displaying poor table manners, being unfriendly or disrespectful, etc., please correct the student and let the VI teacher know. The education of a blind child covers so much more than academics. If a child learns to read and write but does not learn to successfully interact with others, then he/she is in danger of becoming isolated and lonely. Social skills are SO important for everyone, but especially students with a visual impairment.

Special Education Programs - services to students with disabilities, birth to 22

Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) - a TEA mandated formal meeting which addresses the student's Special Education eligibility and program needs; occurs when the student initially enrolls in a district, annually, when a student exits a district, or parent /guardian request at any time during the school year; includes (but not limited to): parent/s, classroom teacher/s, VI teacher, diagnostician, related staff, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) representative, student, principal; 10 month plan

Individual Family Services Plan (IFSP) - children in the birth to 2 years and 364 days range have this type of plan, instead of the IEP; reviewed every 6 months; reevaluated annually; 12 month plan

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) - - children under 3 years of age are under this agency's guardianship

Preschool Programs for Children With Disabilities (PPCD) - - once a child turns 3, s/he enters the public school system's jurisdiction; under ARD recommendation, the student can be enrolled in PPCD

Extended School Year (ESY) - - summer services recommended for students; based on the State regulation that "the student has exhibited, or reasonably may be expected to exhibit, severe or substantial regression that cannot be recouped within a reasonable period of time".

Transition Plan (ITP) - to prepare students in special education programs for a successful transition life outside of the public school system. Initial plan written at 14. Specific goals are addressed annually once student turns 16

Free and Public Education (FAPE) - - law that basically state that students who qualify to receive special education will not be charged for such services

Texas Education Agency (TEA) - governing body which regulates school districts' policies for both general and special education programs

Education Service Center (ESC) - supports districts in areas such as instructional program and curriculum development, implementation and compliance with state and federal laws and regulations, personnel development, inservice training, technical assistance in support of direct service providers, and direct service. This support based on a regional needs assessment plan, which is addressed annually.

Diagnostician - employed by the district; case manager of students' comprehensive evaluation records

Teacher of the Visually Impaired (VI Teacher) - person with specialized training in the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments; falls in the category of Instructional staff

Functional Vision Evaluation / Learning Media Assessment (FVE / LMA - an evaluation of performance of tasks in a variety of environments requiring the use of both near and distance vision; the FVE can be performed by the VI Teacher or O&M Instructor (more commonly by the VI Teacher); the LMA can only be performed by a VI Teacher; determines recommendation for clinical low vision and O&M evaluations

Low Vision Evaluation - a functional evaluation performed by a Low Vision Specialist, who evaluates the need for low vision devices, to include glasses and sunshades, monoculars, and magnifiers

Related Services - services which are developmental, corrective, supportive, or evaluative; NOT instructional in nature; O&M , Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, and special transportation fall into this category

Instructional Services - VI teachers, classroom and Special Education teachers

Special Education Director - head (director) of the Special Education Department

Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) - required if direct services are recommended; specifies the student's annual targeted goals, objectives, and placements; written by instructional and related service persons

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - for the child's learning potential; ensures that children with disability will not be placed in settings based on "disability", but rather on needs determined by formal evaluations; ensures that students with disabilities have same access to school facilities and functions (such as extracurricular) as students without disabilities

Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE) - a full battery of assessments performed every 3 years; includes the FVE / LMA, O&M, eye report, and education/social/psychological

Assistive Technology (AT) - any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities; a cane is considered an assistive technology device

7/2001

Vision is the primary learning modality and source of information for most children. No other sense can stimulate curiosity, integrate information or invite exploration In the same way, or as efficiently and fully, as vision does. The child who comes into the world without a dependable visual system, or without vision at all, has to navigate through the incomplete messages received through the other sensory modalities in order to put a whole picture of the world together. The visually Impaired child needs to determine how to organize this incomplete information and then respond to what may remain a confusing view of the world.

The child who is legally blind may not learn to do things by visual imitation, an integral pathway to learning during early development. Thus, her ability to understand basic life concepts, and the process by which most life tasks are accomplished and brought to completion, is seriously compromised. The visually impaired child who is unable to see the complex process of putting together a meal within the family home, for example, has missed invaluable understanding of what causes things to happen in life. Only through experience- based learning does the blind or visually impaired child gain the personal validation of what the world is about In a way that makes sense to that individual. By repeated opportunities for hands- on experiences, the VI infant/toddler begins to internalize the characteristics and properties of the world outside himself.

Without these essential pieces of information about the world, the ability of the legally blind child to develop effective problem solving skills, a cornerstone to cognition, is seriously challenged. The legally blind child Is often left to depend upon the verbal description of the world given him by a sighted person whose view of reality does not match with what the blind person is experiencing (Santin and Simmons). Instruction specific to his disability is essential for the young child who is blind or visually impaired in order to meet his unique needs.

Assessment Needs of Visually Impaired Children

  • Use of assessment tools that take the child's visual impairment Into account by adjusting the timing, materials, and location of the assessment.
  • Tran-disciplinary, collaborative assessment processes involving all qualified professionals who are working with the infant and family, including the vision teacher.

Cognitive Needs

  •   Strategies to compensate for the lack of dependable sensory and experiential information available to the visually impaired infant.
  • Training in the use of auditory, olfactory, tactile and kinesthetic senses to access the environment.
  • Exposure to a wide variety of environmental experiences in natural settings to allow the child to generalize learned skills in new settings.
  • Repeated opportunities to move out into the environment to take part in meaningful daily experiences using real objects.

Gross and Fine Motor Needs

  • Physical Therapy and/or Occupational Therapy to overcome the effects of limited motor experiences on muscle development.
  • Fine motor activities to develop tactile discrimination skills: requisite for Braille readiness.
  • Special emphasis on the use of two hands in preparation for Braille instruction.
  • Training and support to move out into the environment. The infant who is blind or low vision does not have the visual motivation that prompts the development of early motor milestones.

Vision Needs

  • Regular functional vision evaluations.
  • Caregiver understanding of, and response to, the unique characteristics of the VI child's visual diagnosis.
  • Vision stimulation activities in. the context of naturally occurring events to encourage the use of residual vision, when appropriate.
  • Access to adapted visual aides (glasses, contacts, sunglasses, etc.).

Communication Needs

  • Early nurturing interactions with a consistent, significant caregiver.
  • Recognition of the unique responses of visually impaired infants to the introduction of new voices and sounds.
  • Simultaneous verbal description of activities in which the VI child is engaged.
  • Identification of persons who interact with the baby by tactual and/or verbal cueing.

Adaptive Needs

  • Beginning orientation and mobility interventions to develop body awareness, spatial awareness and early mapping skills. .
  • Adapted toys and equipment to encourage development of other sensory modalities.
  • Frequent opportunities to develop pre- Braille tactual and fine motor skills, using two hands effectively.

Social and Emotional Needs

  • Support for parent- child interactions; assistance in interpreting the unique human responses of the visually impaired infant: i.e. the tendency of a VI infant to become quiet and still when approached by even a familiar person is often interpreted as a lack of interest in social interaction, which discourages future social contact.
  • Early exposure to age- appropriate skills for daily living: eating, dressing, toileting.
  • Additional support to motivate the M infant to interact with family members and others within the extended family and community.
  • Play opportunities with selective adult encouragement to interact with age mates takes on added significance for the legally blind child who is unable to visually imitate the play skills of other children.

March 1995

Blind Babies Foundation
Special Acknowledgments:
Janine Swanson California State Department of Education
Julie Bernas- Pierce, Blind Babies Foundation
XIVth International Seminar on Preschool Blind, June 1990

(Developed by C.M. Cowan, Education Service Center, Region XIII)

Students With Low Vision In Grades K-6

At the initial meeting with the student's classroom teachers, ask for a daily schedule. Write these on index cards. Ask the classroom teacher what time would be best for your instruction to occur. Explain that you will be serving several schools per day and will try to arrange a workable schedule with all schools.

As a general rule, most students with low vision will require one hour o instruction per week. If you must pull a student for individual instruction, do not pull him from an activity which will cause a deficit. If you remove a student from math, you will be responsible for working on math during that time. With one-on-one instruction, the lesson moves quickly, allowing the VI teacher time for additional instruction, if necessary.

Once index cards are complete for al I students, use a pen to highlight the best times for each student, as suggested by the classroom teacher. Make a grid with boxes for Monday through Friday, with each box divided in two for morning and afternoon. Enter student names into the grid in pencil until all students are scheduled. A rule of thumb is to work with no more than four students per day, depending on the amount of service and the distance to be traveled.

Allow time for lunch, lesson planning, material preparation, travel, etc.

Leave at least a two hour block of time free, one day a week to perform evaluations, attend meetings and make spot observations of students.

Braille Students

If the student is a beginning braille reader, schedule to see him during the language arts block and pull out when the class is working on independent work. Allow time to work with the student, chat briefly with the teacher, and adapt last minute assignments. Using the school adopted reading series allows the student to participate in classroom language arts instruction. Allow time in the schedule at least once a week to observe social skills and independence in the cafeteria, P.E., and/or art.

(Developed by the R.I.M. Project, Reducing Isolation in the Mainstream)

  • Teaching and learning processes are fundamentally the same for both sighted and blind students; therefore, your teaching techniques will not be altered significantly by having a blind student in your class.
  • Your leadership in helping classmates accept the VI student is especially important in setting a positive classroom atmosphere.
  • A teacher of the visually impaired will work with the blind student on the special skills he/she needs to learn. The VI teacher also will work closely with you in answering questions and supplying materials for the blind student. Braille papers will be transcribed to print so you will be able to read them.
  • The student will follow the regular curriculum, using braille and taped materials. The blind student's use of adapted materials and equipment will become routine to you and the other students in the class and will not be a disturbance.
  • Many braille-reading students have light perception, object perception, or color perception, and are not "totally blind."
  • As the blind student becomes familiar with the physical layout of the building, he/she should be encouraged to move about independently. Advise him/her o changes in the layout of the classroom. Doors halfway open can mean a bump on the head for even the best oriented blind student. Completely opened or closed doors are best. (orientation and mobility will be provided as necessary.)
  • In evaluating quality o work and in applying discipline, you help the blind student by using the same standards that you use with other students.
  • Verbalize as much as possible when writing on the chalkboard or overhead projector. This may be helpful to all students in the class.
  • Books and equipment for the braille-reading student are large and bulky. Arrangements for extra storage space for the student should be made. Perhaps he/she could use an extra shelf or an empty desk nearby.
  • The braille-reading student should receive copies of all dittos and other handouts given to the other students. The teacher should give the dittos to the teacher for the visually impaired beforehand so she can transcribe them into braille.

By Elsie Rao, VI Teacher, Tyler Independent School District

Materials to have on hand:

  • Peg slate
  • Brown slate and stylus; (APH #1-00170-00) is the one that works best for my students, because they can check their work without removing the paper.
  • Stylus (Most of my students prefer the saddle-shaped stylus from APH [1-00120-00] but the tip needs to be honed to a smaller size. Students need to try a variety of stylus types so they will know which works best for them.)
  • Notebook paper or typing paper.

General Info:

  • Students need to know the dots used to make a braille character.
  • They need to understand the reason behind the right to left progression.
  • Supposedly, the best grip involves placing the stylus under the upper part of the index finger, the thumb laps around the base, and the third finger is placed on the neck of the stylus near the tip.
  • Beginning slate and stylus users should start out using bifold notebook or typing paper. Regular braille paper is too difficult to use for a beginner. Try it yourself, you'll see the difference. When proficient with bifold, go to trifold, etc. until you near the thickness of braille paper.
  • My students really enjoy "racing" me on the slate and stylus, either writing the alphabet or a sentence. When you write on the slate and stylus without looking, you have to face the same problems your students encounter when using this device.
  • Time the students when they are writing the alphabet so that you have some manner of measuring and documenting progress.
  • This is a great way to document mastery of the braille code. If they can write it one dot at a time, one character at a time, then they know it.

Advantages to Using a Slate and Stylus:

  • very portable, lightweight
  • no batteries required
  • no charging time
  • not hampered by weather conditions
  • inexpensive
  • can be used anywhere, anytime
  • fun to use

prepared by Chrissy Cowan

Braille

Braille is code in which some words are spelled out, some have letter parts combined, and some have contractions:

Example: "cat" is brailled c- a- t (spelled out)

"shout" is brailled with a sign for sh and out

"for" is brailled by using a contraction

That is why, when you ask the blind student to spell out the word he is stuck on, he can't do it because he is actually stuck on the braille symbols (or contractions).

YOU WILL NOT BE EXPECTED TO READ AND/OR TEACH BRAILLE YOURSELF. Materials for 1st grade and 2nd grade will be "interlined" (a print transcript is written above each brailled word) so that you can follow along as the student does his work.

In regards to braille, the VI teacher will be providing the following:

  • direct instruction with the student to teach braille reading, writing, and formats (writing personal letters, outlines, graphs, charts, maps, tables, word searches, crossword puzzles, etc.)
  • all materials needed to produce braille
  • a print interpretation of everything the student brailles so that you may grade it
  • all of your handouts and overhead transparencies in braille
  • workbooks, library books, and basals are already brailled by other agencies and are ordered by the VI teacher at your request

Some print formats do not transform into braille well, particularly in first and second grades. The best thing to do is to always provide a copy of the sheet in question and the VI teacher will change the format so that the student still learns the concept.

Braille Procurement

The print materials you use in your class should be made available to the blind student at the same time they are issued to the print students so as to avoid gaps in learning. If you are using "duplicating masters," "practice worksheets," or other papers generated from the various subject curricula, let the VI teacher know at least two weeks in advance so he can braille them for you on time. DO NOT be afraid to ask to have something in braille, thinking you may not use if after all. The VI teacher would much rather braille too much than not enough.

You and the VI teacher will discuss how to organize this "paper shuffle" so that you find it workable.

Before we leave this topic - a word on "spontaneity." Many teachers say they sometimes feel somewhat stymied by having to prepare in advance so that the braille student will have the materials needed, particularly in situations in which they see the class needs immediate review of a concept they are having trouble learning. You should go ahead with what you would normally do, and just do your best at describing the material in a way to include the blind student.

Braille Books

Braille books are big and bulky. One print book may have as many as 4 or more braille volumes. The VI teacher can provide a box in which the student keeps the current volume next to his desk. Ideally, the rest of the volumes should be stored on a shelf in your room so that they may be quickly retrieved by the student as needed. This should not take up more than 2 shelves. If print users are allowed to write in their workbooks, i.e. circle or underline answers, the braille student should be doing the same in his braille book. Answers can be transferred to a print sheet for you to grade and for parents to see . That is why the VI teacher may request print copies of all workbooks that are issued to the blind student.

Braille books may be taken home if you assign homework from the book.

Dictionary Work

Subject text glossaries can be used to teach and reinforce this skill. If you are covering dictionary work fairly often the VI teacher can provide your visually impaired student with an electronic dictionary.

Materials Written on Chalkboard/Charts

Let theVI teacher know which charts and maps you typically use and he will braille the materials in advance.

It helps the blind student if you read over the materials which has been written on the chalkboard, and/or verbalize as you write. Another approach is to have a neighboring student quietly read the material to the blind student as he brailles anything that is needed for later use (e.g. vocabulary words, daily assignments, math problems).

Student Output

Studies indicate a braille reader takes sometimes as much as twice the time to read and write due to the bulkiness and awkward formats of Braille . Sometimes the best thing to do is to allow the braille student to complete a little more than half the work WHEN THIS WILL NOT JEOPARDIZE content mastery. This will not work for all subjects, particularly science and social studies. But it does work well in spelling, math, and some reading activities. Assign the same volume of work the first 6 weeks to roughly evaluate the student's speed, then talk with the VI teacher about reducing the work load, if needed. Remember, a blind student cannot usually insert a page of work into a brailler to "fill in the blanks," and so for everything he does he is having to prepare an answer sheet and transfer the item number as well as the answer over the paper. This alone takes more time than simply writing answers directly on the page as print users can do.

Math

Because braille students cannot "figure" on paper as easily as print students, they are taught to use a device called a Cranmer abacus. This is an abacus that has been modified for use by blind students. The VI teacher will provide all instruction on the abacus in conjunction with your math curriculum. The abacus typically takes years of training and is fairly complex. However, TEA allows this devise to be used in all standardized testing situations through college, and therefore it is a tremendous advantage for the blind student. The use of "talking calculator" is not appropriate until math facts are memorized and your class begins to work with calculators.

Before he begins to add and/or subtract on the abacus, the student must know basic facts just like his sighted peers. He must also know multiplication facts before he can perform multiplication and division on the abacus. The student will not "borrow" and "carry" in addition and subtraction on the abacus, so the VI teacher will not stress these or "regrouping" with the blind student. Likewise, we do not use the print formats used in multiplication and division. Again, the VI teacher will be responsible for teaching these processes on the abacus as they coincide with your curriculum. For this reason, he will need to know what daily assignments you are working on so he can see how best to prepare abacus lessons. The easiest way to do this is for you to allow access to your planning book.

Computer

If your class frequents the computer lab, a computer will be equipped with both the hardware and software necessary for the blind student's use. The VI teacher may be expected to teach these modifications to the blind student at the appropriate developmental stages.

Technology

Typically, instruction on touch typing begins once a student reaches the 4th grade so they can learn how to use a note taking device to produce their work in print. We also have available other electronic devices which translate braille into print as the student brailles. In some situations the equipment may take up a lot of room and we may need lots of desk- top space! Typically, a technology assessment is performed with each student to match equipment with the student's needs.

Organization

You and the VI teacher will work together to teach organization to the blind student. They have so many books to deal with and papers coming from all directions that they have a real impossible time FINDING things! So there are a few rules you may want to stress:

  • all papers must have a heading, including name, date, and the assignment
  • when print sheets are stapled to the braille copy of a worksheet they must remain together
  • books must remain in their designated place when not in use
  • old volumes must be placed back on the shelf when they are not longer being used
  • completed papers must be turned in to be either translated into print by the VI personnel or directly graded by you if already in print
  • graded papers must be stored in one location and taken home on a specified date (follow class routine)
  • incomplete work should be stored in one location until ready to turn in
  • at no time should papers be shoved into a desk or left lying around on the floor.

Ideally, students in the 3rd grade on up should start using a 3- ring binder with subject dividers and pocket folders for loose worksheets to keep everything together in one place.

Discipline

Blind children are not different from their sighted peers in regards to discipline. They, too, require a structure that is well defined with consequences for misbehavior. This is crucial if we are to help a blind child function successfully within any environment. So if homework isn't turned in on time, if the child doesn't raise his hand before responding, if he talks out of turn, if he does a sloppy job on his work, or goes against any of the other rules you feel are important - react as you would for any child. If a particular behavior bugs you and/or seems "socially inappropriate", it would be a tremendous social value to the blind child for you to help change that behavior, and, in fact, that's one of the main reasons blind children benefit so much from an education in the general education setting.

Teaching Methods

These are some things you might consider as you embark on the day-to-day routines of teaching with a blind student in your classroom.

  • verbalize as you write on the board, overhead projector, and/or charts - be as explicit as possible as you verbalize, for example: "Go stand by the door" instead of "Go over there," "Let's look at sentence #5," instead of, "Look at the next one;” "I have circled one quarter and one nickel; how much is that?" instead of, "How much have I circled?"
  • when you tell the students to get out their books and open to page ______, glance over to the blind student to make sure he is following your instructions, then check to see that he is on the right page (for 1st - 3rd graders).
  • as you introduce a lesson and are giving examples of how to complete an activity, ask the blind child a question to check his understanding of the task.
  • if you are handing out a worksheet on which the directions have been modified for the blind student, you may want to develop a routine in which you go around to him for more specific instructions after you get the class started (this applies mostly to 1st - 3rd graders).
  • don't be afraid to use the words "look" and "see," as these sound more normal than saying things like, "Here, feel this!, or, "Did you listen to TV last night?"
  • if it can be touched, encourage tactual exploration

 

Using eyes does not harm them. In fact, greater efficiency is developed through use of the eyes for visual tasks.

Holding printed material close to the eyes may be the child's way of seeing best. It will not harm his eyes.

Although eyes cannot be "strained" from use, a child's eyes may tire more quickly. A change of focus or activity helps.

Copying is often a problem for children with low vision. The child may need a longer period of time to do class work or a shortened assignment.

In situations where a child has been issued a monocular (a type of small telescope), copying board work from his desk should be expected, but with an extended amount of time or a shortened assignment.

When writing on the blackboard or overhead projector, the teacher will help the low vision child if he verbalizes as much as possible. Dark blue and black ink is more visible on the overhead.

A small number of low vision children use large type books; most do not. As the child learns to use his vision, he becomes more efficient with visual tasks and can generally read smaller print. In order to encourage independence and increase the availability of print, a hand-held magnifier is preferred over large type.

Contrast, print style and spacing can be more important than the size of print.

Photocopies which have low contrast between the color of the paper and print can be difficult for the low vision child to read. Make sure that the copied page has good contrast between the two.

The term "legally blind" does not mead "educationally blind" or "totally blind". Most children who are legally blind (20/200) functions educationally as sighted children.

One of the most important things a low vision child will learn in school is to accept responsibility for seeking her own help when needed rather than waiting for someone to offer.

In evaluating quality of work and in applying discipline, the teacher helps the low vision child by using the same standards for him that are used with other children.

Most acuity measures on medical records are describing distance vision only and can not be used to predict the child's performance on near tasks.

Glasses will not necessarily correct a vision deficiency to 20/20. Moreover, glasses may not improve vision whatsoever.

An acuity measurement does not dictate what the child's visual performance will be.

 

Diane Barnes, O&M Specialist, ESC XIII (1/2001)

DIRECT SERVICES

O&M Instructor IEP

The O&M Instructor works directly (pull - out) with the "student"

  • The ARD papers document how often the student will receive services, and the length of time of each session
  • The ARD papers document teaching environments (e.g. school, and/or home, and/or community)
  • If services will take place other than (or, in addition to) regular school hours, ARD papers document 'When" (e.g. before school, after school)
  • If other team members serve in a "role release" capacity, two things should occur:
    1. The O&M Instructor "models" "specific techniques" in the "environment/s" in which they will be used
    2. The O&M Instructor "monitors" (observations and communications) for accuracy and the need for adaptations / corrections
  • Under this model, the student has demonstrated the ability to work with a service provider who s/he does not interact with throughout the natural context of her/his day, learn skills in isolation (e.g. touch technique taught by walking back and forth down the hall), tolerate concentrated practice of skill/s during a session, and /or generalize skills from one situation to another.

Integrated (Team) IEP

  • The O&M Instructor collaborates with at least one other team member in writing an IEP which incorporates both party's goals and objectives. This type of IEP is most used with infants/students who require learning techniques in the context of structured routines (part of student's natural day, instead of "in isolation"), and/or the student works best with few interveners.
  • Each discipline's name is listed on the "person responsible" section of the IEP. The perspective person's initials are listed next to each specific technique in which s/he will teach and model (e.g. if the routine is "student will use the cane to walk to bathroom", the O&M instructor's initials are listed as the teacher, but all parties will play a role in implementing the activity as part of the student's daily schedule.
  • Under this model, the O&M instructor provides direct services for an extended period, but may or may not serve in the on-going direct service capacity. The role may shift to the "consult" model when techniques application/s reach the level of no longer requiring direct O&M Instructor intervention. The O&M Instructor continues to hold responsibility for the Under this model, the O&M instructor provides direct services for an extended period, but may or may not serve in the on-going direct service capacity. The role may shift to the "consult" model when techniques application/s reach the level of no longer requiring direct O&M Instructor intervention. The O&M Instructor continues to hold responsibility for the implementation of specified O&M techniques and techniques, and monitors/communicates regularly with the "role releasee/s".

NOTE: For children in the birth to three year old (0 - 3) category, an IEP is not used. O&M Instructor intervention areas are documented in the IFSP paperwork.

CONSULT ONLY

  • The O&M Instructor does not work directly with the child/student.
  • The O&M instructor has identified O&M related areas which may benefit the child /student, but these services can appropriately be provided by the parent and incorporated into existing service providers' (e.g. VI teacher, class room teacher) programs.
  • The O&M Instructor demonstrates specific techniques, and/or provide the teacher/s with activities and experiences which will enhance the child's/student's independent travel abilities.
  • Under this model, the child/student: (1) demonstrated skills at the appropriate level, but requires monitoring to ensure consistency/accuracy, and/or (2) has good functional travel vision, but would benefit with enhancement opportunities and experiences (e.g. identifying landmarks and clues when on field trips and family outings).

* Child refers to the birth - 3 year old category. Student refers to the 3 (in school) to 22 age category.

Diane Barnes, O&M Consultant, ESC Xlll (7/01)

(list not conclusive)

  • Child has been newly determined to meet State Board of Education eligibility criteria as visually impaired
  • Full and Individual Evaluation -- TEA mandated 3 year evaluation
  • There is a doctor reported decrease in vision
  • There are student, family, or staff reports of incidents such as bumping Into things and tripping over objects
  • To address skills relevant to child's age and/or developmental level (e.g. child has increased level of moving across space --, scooting, crawling, walking; the system for routine school travel is changing -- no longer travel to class and other areas "in a line with other students")
  • There has been a change in student's physical functioning (eg. no longer in a wheelchair)
  • Student has moved to an environment which requires using skills that weren't necessary in the present environment (e.g. school with no stairs to school with more than one floor)
  • There has been trauma which results in neurological, speech, or auditory impairment
  • Role release: result of observations/consultations