What should I remember when teaching a VI student?
Helpful tips to remember when you are teaching a visually impaired student:
- When addressing the child, do this directly by using his/her name at the beginning of your
initial sentence. Do not rely on gestures, facial expressions or eye contact.
- Use usual vocabulary. Do not avoid words related to vision and encourage the child's peers
to do likewise. Always speak clearly, be specific and use vocabulary that is meaningful.
- Tell the child what is going on, including what is being written on display board. This can be
very wearing at first but it is necessary for the child. A very low vision child needs talking
through every activity in order to enhance learning on a scale comparative to their sighted
- Talk through often used routes to encourage familiarity (and hopefully independence).
Discuss sounds, smells and other landmarks such as door positions and stairs.
- The VI child needs the security of familiar territory. Extra time is needed to show moving of
classroom furniture as the child will have memorised the layout and constant change will
completely disorientate them.
- Quiet times are very important for VI children, especially when concentration is required.
- Encourage and develop listening skills. Contrary to popular opinion this is not automatic in
children with impaired vision.
- Encourage the use of hands-on techniques and encourage the child to move to explore for
- Always speak directly to a blind child when entering a room. He/she may be aware that
someone is in close proximity, but they will not automatically know who it is.
- What appears to be bad behaviour may not necessarily be so, for example, a child may
stamp it's feet for echo location in a new room.
- Independence skills are often slow to be achieved and need repeated, patient teaching.
- Language and other skills are likely to develop at a slower rate than in fully sighted children
- this is NOT a reflection of the child's intellectual capability.
- Never leave doors ajar - either fully open or fully closed. Avoid dangers but beware of being
over-protective. VI children have to learn to live in the real world, they need to develop coping
strategies for all occasions.
- Be systematic and avoid unnecessary clutter. Encourage the child into similar habits and
develop memory skills.
- Encourage systematic searching for lost objects. Do not remove objects without telling the
child and encourage him/her to pack away his/her own belongings as far as possible.
- Do not avoid activities which involve the use of vision: e.g. watching television. Adapt
activities where appropriate. Where adaptation is not possible or practical, it is often the
case that the VI child can gain considerably from just listening.
- Do not assume that any activity is unsuitable. Assume that all activities being followed by
peers are also suitable for the VI child; the delivery may have to be altered in order for
him/her to experience the activity.
- When setting a task (especially an unfamiliar one) it may help to stop for a moment and try
to imagine how you would cope without the use of your sight.