Teaching Kids with Visual Impairments

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In Sunday school, we want to create an environment where everybody belongs and everybody learns and grows together. What does that mean for kids with visual impairments? Check out these helpful ideas from Sister Barbara Cline, the Director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Children are considered legally blind if they have 20/200 vision in their better eye with correction. This means that they can see at 20 feet what a person with perfect vision can see at two hundred feet, even if they are wearing glasses. Visual problems are not all the same, and a teacher should be aware of the nature of the specific problem in order to help the child engage in the lesson. For example, moving the child closer to the storyteller or whiteboard may be of help to some, but a child with tunnel vision may have to be placed farther away in order to get the whole picture.

Be aware that the child may depend on auditory cues to gain information about the environment, such as the size of the classroom and the arrangement of the furniture. Don’t leave doors half open, or chairs sticking out in the aisle. Let the child know what is going on in the room, especially when other students react to some visible stimulus. Never grab the child to lead him or her to a seat; rather, lead the way. Have the other children introduce themselves so that they might be recognized by the sound of their voice. It isn’t necessary to avoid the use of words like “see” or “look”. They are a normal part of the vocabulary of a child who is blind.

When working with a child with a visual problem:

1. Choose Sunday school resource that offers children’s material in Braille (Faith Alive’s Walk With Me curriculum offers all of the student materials in Braille).     

2. Before the Sunday school season begins, acquaint the child with the classroom.

3. Become familiar with and teach the other children the sighted guide technique or other ways to help without sacrificing the child’s independence.

4. Keep background noise to a minimum.

5. Speak in a normal tone of voice.

6. Set an example for the other children in the class by describing the things you see and relating them to their sounds.

7. Give the child ample opportunity and assistance to structure personal space.

8. Find out how much residual vision the child has. Ensure that lighting is appropriate.

9. After the lesson, check in to clarify any problems the child may have. 

 What other ideas would you add to this list?

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