Visual Adaptations in School
As your child enters preschool, the issue of whether the new environment in which she will be spending most of her day supports her learning and independence becomes important. The visual impairment or diagnosis that your child has may, in fact, require specific adaptations in the classroom. Once you’ve chosen your child’s preschool, having a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) involved is of great importance. This teacher can act as an adviser to preschool staff to explain how your child’s vision loss affects her behavior and ability to learn, and how to adjust the classroom environment so that she is appropriately supported. For instance, the teacher can discuss accommodations such as:
- Appropriate lighting to enable your child to use her vision comfortably and efficiently.
- Behaviors that your child may be using to compensate for a vision loss, such as turning or tilting her head.
- Ways to organize the classroom to ensure that your child can move around the room safely and understand where materials and specific areas are located.
For that reason, you may want to try to arrange a meeting with you and the teacher of students with visual impairments to discuss your child’s specific needs related to her visual impairment with her preschool teacher, such as:
- Having your child sit next to the teacher during story time so that she has the opportunity to see the book, or explore it by touch, with extra verbal descriptions included for her.
- Presenting materials in a clear, simple format with strong outlines.
- Using different contrasting colors when classroom materials are selected or arranged.
- Defining classroom space or special areas, such as the reading area, clearly by using materials such as markers, borders, colored tape on the floor, or rugs.
- Providing specific directions aloud during transitions or movement from one place or activity to another.
- Using a buddy system in which children in the class are paired when traveling in and out of the building or to the cafeteria or library, for example.
- Announcing destinations to the class before beginning to travel.
- Placing braille or large-print labels around the classroom to increase your child’s exposure to written language—this is an important support for reading readiness for all children.
- Placing materials such as color charts and number charts at eye level, where all children can have access to them as they explore and play.
- Using real objects or realistic models, such as a real bunny in a cage or fuzzy toy bunny when reading a story about rabbits, to support development of ideas and concepts whenever possible.
- Allowing time for additional practice in skill areas and to complete activities.