Education of Children with Visual Impairments

Sad as it is, lots of children have visual impairments. In figures: about one in thousand children of school-age don’t see well enough. About ten percent of them is totally blind. All of these children have insufficient vision to help them learn and thus their education should depend on other methods, either tactile and/or auditory.

Although the development of medicine has vastly improved lots of conditions, some children still require special treatment. However, despite their handicap, most children (approximately ninety percent) attend normal schools and lead an ordinary life. Only the totally blind have to attend special schools. In elementary or high schools, those with visual impairment can be helped by giving them a teacher, especially assigned to help them adjust. For a couple of hours per week, such students are taken out of their normal class and learn special techniques to help them adapt to normal life in class.

For instance, they are encouraged to use the vision they still have for certain activities where this can provide information they should otherwise lack. It will also help that the environment of the student (parents, other teacher, friends and family) encourages the use of vision , where possible.

Students with low vision also can be helped in the classroom with optical devices and auditory material. For reading classes, books with standard print can be used, with the help of a magnifying glass or another optical device. Students who can’t read standard print are helped with enlarged print books or auditory devices. The Learning Media Assessment procedure (Koenig and Holbrook, 1995) is often used to find the best medium for a student. Often a combination of several ways of reading and writing works best for the impaired.

If you can’t see well, you may benefit from specialized instruction in skills that are not part of the standard lessons at school. To better orientate themselves, impaired students are taught orientation and mobility skills. For this, it is essential that the student uses all of his senses to know where he is and where he is heading. This may include learning to use a long cane.

Other necessary skills include daily living, career development, communication and the use of social skills.

For those students who are blind, education will focus on tactile and auditory materials. The most used form of tactile code is Braille. It is used for reading, and lately the options of Braille access are vastly expanding. Not only can Braille be used in standard book format, but nowadays it can also be used on portable devices such as notepads and laptops. There also exist books on CD or DVD. The use of Dictaphones is encouraged to take notes.

Because they don’t have access to images or pictures, blind students should be encouraged to directly experience with materials and objects. Patting a cow or horse, walking in the sea, climbing a tree, feeling the face of a loved one, … will offer more information to a blind person than verbal description.


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