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Adapting the Classroom (Part 1)

A teacher helps load a brailler for a pupil in the classroom at the Royal Blind School

In the first part of this blog you’ll find guidelines for adapting your classroom for blind and partially sighted pupils.

Layout

It is important to try and keep the classroom layout as static as possible and if you do make changes to the layout that you let the children experience that change and show them where you have moved things to. Also to try and minimise the amount of moving around from table to table and teach specific routes to the carpet/blackboard etc.

Your pupil with vision impairment does need to learn to navigate unfamiliar areas but it is important that their immediate learning environment stays as unchanged as possible. This reduces their stress and allows them to learn better, it also gives them confidence to move around independently. If environments are always changing and have unexpected obstacles to negotiate all the time the pupil will become more reliant on others and ultimately less proactive in their mobility.

Be aware of the social needs of your pupil. As it is not a good idea to keep moving the pupil with vision impairment from table to table, especially if their desk has a lot of assistive equipment, you can vary the other pupils working on the table to allow for new friends to be made and a different mix of personalities.

It is also a good idea to let the pupil work in a space away from their normal seat and sometimes without all their equipment. This obviously involves devising a task where the fixed supports are less necessary but also gives them the freedom to be like everyone else for a moment.

A slant (or sloping) board helps to provide a better working angle for pupils with vision impairment, but not using their slanting board occasionally, depending on the type and duration of task, is ok.

"As a primary teacher myself, especially mostly in the infant department, it is hard not to make the classroom very visually stimulating. It is not possible to make everything perfect for the vision impaired pupil but be aware that a visually busy environment (visually or spatially) is an exhausting one. It is important to consider as much as possible ‘why’ something is going on the wall or in the room and how necessary it is."
Sally Paterson, Learning Hub manager

Windows

Don't position a pupil with vision impairment facing the windows as the glare can cause problems, and try not to teach with the windows or a main light source behind you. Be aware of the way the light coming into the room affects the board/walls etc.


Want to learn more? Try our Guidelines for Blind and Partially Sighted Pupils.

In part two of this blog we will finish off our guidelines for adapting the classroom for pupils with vision impairment.

[ Modified: Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 2:50 PM ]
 
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by Learning Hub - Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 3:37 PM
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Do you have a child with Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) and are you looking for support and advice? CVI Scotland have written an informative and helpful guide for parents called Sharing & Developing Our Understanding of CVI.

What is Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI)?

CVI refers to visual problems a child or adult may experience due to damage to the parts of the brain that deal with vision. CVI can be common in children with multiple disabilities. CVI is different to Ocular Visual Impairment, which means sight problems caused by the eyes not functioning properly. If a child has CVI there is nothing wrong with their eyes.

Pages from Sharing & Developing our Understanding of CVI. The front cover has a drawing of three owls of different sizes and colours sitting on a treebranch. The second page gives examples of learning not being learnable for children with CVI.

The guide gives advice and guidance on what to expect with:

  • Doctors & Diagnosis of CVI
  • Vision Impairment Support Services
  • School
  • Habilitation
  • Therapies

The effects of CVI are unique for each child and there is currently no medical treatment. This guide details a few common reasons why CVI can make getting around difficult.

Lower visual field impairment

Children with CVI who are affected by lower visual field impairment don’t like going down stairs and slides, and they dislike uneven ground and often trip over or bump into things.

Looming

CVI can affect a child’s ability to judge distances. They can find it difficult to learn how big and far away things are. This can be even more difficult for them when they are moving, and especially moving quickly. This can lead to anxiety and can be frightening for the child. The guide uses the example of a car driving past in the opposite direction.

The main takeaway from the guide is that you, as the parent of the child, are the key person to help your child. You can make a massive difference to their life by learning to experience the world the way they do.

To learn more about CVI visit the CVI Scotland website.

To find out how to get a copy of Sharing & Developing Our Understanding of CVI you can email CVI Scotland at info@cviscotland.org.

You can also check out our section on Sharing and Developing our Understanding of Cerebral Vision Impairment, where we have a series of videos developed by CVI Scotland.

[ Modified: Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 3:53 PM ]
 
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by Learning Hub - Thursday, 20 December 2018, 1:32 PM
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Ailie Finlay smiles at the camera while sitting on a sofa in the Royal Blind School library. She holds a tactile book on her lap.

Ailie Finlay visited the Royal Blind School this week with examples of her tactile books and resources.

Ailie is a storyteller and you can find out more about her and the sensory stories she creates at http://www.flotsamandjetsam.co.uk/.

Ailie is always looking for new ways to engage learners with additional support needs and vision impairment through her storytelling and book resources.

Her website has some free downloadable story scripts and ideas for inclusive games.

Ailie holds open a tactile book showing the pages petals fall "sweep, sweep, sweep". Large tactile petals of different materials are affixed to the page

[ Modified: Thursday, 20 December 2018, 1:56 PM ]
 
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Karen Osterloh, School Librarian, shares how the school took on the Reading Challenge last year and adapted the resources to suit the varying needs of the pupils.

This blog first appeared on the Scottish Book Trust website blog.

Tresure hunt clues (letters and braille) on the front of six childrens books

Starting our reading journey

It is really important for children and young people with visual impairment to read (in large print or braille) so that they can learn autonomously along with their sighted peers. We worked with a group of 28 young people, aged 6-18, and used the Reading Challenge and Inspiring Classrooms funding to promote reading for pleasure and general literacy within the school.

We launched the Reading Challenge at a whole school assembly in November 2017. We explained that the Challenge would be a competition between the classes to see which class could read the most books by June 2018. The prize for this would be a large box of chocolates, as well as books or a sensory story chosen by the winning class.

Adapting the Resources for our pupils

Reading Passports

Each pupil received a Reading Passport in braille or large print according to individual requirements.

New braille books

We asked pupils what books they wanted in braille and bought as many as possible. Many pupils requested short stories, as books translated into braille can be quite daunting. For example, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is five A4 size volumes!

Adapted Library Display

I created a promotional display outside the library using the posters and resources from the Reading Challenge website. I added large print text and braille to make the information accessible to our pupils.

Promotional display on the corridor wall beside the library

Throughout the year we kept the Challenge alive by talking about it in special assemblies - on World Book Day for example. Pupils were rewarded with a Personal Reading Certificate whenever they finished a book. We also set up book groups in the Library and made use of the Reading Treasure Hunt and the Book Personality Quiz resources.

Adapting the Reading Treasure Hunt

Our library didn't have all the books included in the Reading Treasure Hunt, so we adapted it and made up our own riddles to fit the books we did have - not easy!

We made the book cover clues in braille then stuck the clues all around the school. The pupils had to trail around the corridors to find and read the braille riddles and collect a large print or braille letter from each clue to solve the quiz.

Inspiring Classrooms Event

When we were awarded the Inspiring Classrooms grant we decided to arrange an author visit for our Friends and Family Day in June 2018. The author we chose was Linda Strachan.

Around the time of the event we made a Linda Strachan book display in our library and put up braille and large print posters outside the Library. Our English teacher also read from Linda Strachan's books in class.

Where we are now

We have used the Inspiring Classrooms grant to buy much needed books for our pupils in print and in UEB contracted braille. Much of our current stock is in the old SEB braille format, so this has been really important and encouraging for our braille readers. We also plan to use some of the grant to buy items for our sensory story collection. Props are used to bring stories to life and are especially important for pupils with a visual impairment who need the experience of real world objects to promote learning.

We are now looking forward to starting the Reading Challenge again next year!

[ Modified: Thursday, 8 November 2018, 11:45 AM ]
 
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By Lauren Lockhart, Languages Teacher, Royal Blind School.

Read part 11 of the blog.

Adapting resources for a vision impaired learner

Today, I was thinking how I take for granted all the consideration and time that goes into adapting resources for vision impaired learners.

I was preparing a redacted version of a French textbook for a Braille user and a Large Print user. The pupil uses a BrailleNote Touch (see previous blog), which means that I can transfer electronic Word files and she can read them in Braille. It seems easy, doesn't it? You would think that all I had to do was type out the textbook into Word and put it on USB. But, no. You cannot transfer a traditional worksheet to an electronic notetaker without considering a few things first.

Firstly, any activity that is associated with pictures can be ignored or avoided, unless the images are absolutely necessary to gain an understanding of the language. In languages, they are not generally crucial and can be replaced with tactile objects or description. Secondly, you have to really think about what is important in the textbook and how it has been organised. In languages, you can generally rely on there being a speaking, listening, reading and writing exercise. It is therefore crucial that you highlight this on the document, for both the Braille and the Large Print user. So it looks like this:

Activity 1 (Reading)

Activity 2 (Listening)

And so on.

This really helps both learners to navigate their way around the document (it helps a great many other students too!). Arial is a good font to use for the Large Print user and it is important to know at what size they like to read comfortably.

When you are considering a reading comprehension, the traditional approach would be title, text then questions. For a Braille user, it is much easier for them to know the questions before they read the text as it saves them going back through the text tactually. It then becomes title, questions, text, like this:

Activity 3 (Reading)

Read and find the expressions below in the text.

Example: a) fais tes devoirs

  • a. do your homework
  • b. revise for your tests
  • c. ask your teachers
  • d. talk to your parents
  • e. concentrate on your work
  • f. stay positive

Tante Agathe

Travaille régulièrement, fais tes devoirs tous les jours et révise pour tes contrôles parce que les résultats scolaires sont importants. Demande à tes profs si tu ne comprends pas et ne t’inquiète pas pour ton avenir. Discute avec tes parents parce qu’ils t’aiment. Demande de I ’aide à tes copains aussi. Tu es jeune alors concentre-toi sur ton travail et garde confiance en toi, c’est le plus important. Bon courage et reste positif !

If there is an author of the text, put their names before the text. We forget that this information is gained visually when put at the bottom or after the text. We take it for granted that we can glance between the text and the questions, and visually search for the answer when doing a reading comprehension. This is a lesson to all of us, don't ever take these things for granted!

[ Modified: Tuesday, 30 October 2018, 11:29 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

Royal Blind pupil, LewisCooking Skills for Young People with Vision Impairment

We've added an inspiring new video to our Social & Independent Living Skills section of the website. For people who are blind or partially sighted, cooking can seem rather daunting. However, learning about cooking and gaining practical skills in the kitchen can make a young person with vision impairment much more independent.

Here is a short video of Royal Blind School pupil Lewis, sharing his experiences of learning how to cook for himself as someone with a vision impairment.

Watch Cooking Skills for Young People with Vision Impairment.

 
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by Learning Hub - Tuesday, 9 October 2018, 11:24 AM
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This week's sign is "Orange."

Tap fingertips into palm of same hand, in squeezing action.

On-body signing is a technique used to communicate with people with multiple disabilities and visual impairment. The Royal Blind School in Edinburgh developed a form of on-body signing called Canaan Barrie.

A different sign will be posted on our blog each week. Come back next week to see a new sign.

 
Anyone in the world

By Lauren Lockhart, Languages Teacher, Royal Blind School.

Read part 10 of the blog.

Ideas for games in Modern Foreign Languages

What's in the box?

This activity puts partially sighted pupils with blind pupils on a level playing field, in fact, pupils with no vision usually win this one! Get a shoe box and cut out two holes in the top, large enough to fit hands through. Put realia, such as a CD, a pair of glasses, a spoon etc. into the shoe box and the pupils take it in turns to feel and guess what is in the box.

Braille Hangman

Create a braille tray (useful for many things). You can use a lunch tray and stick Velcro spots on it about 2cms apart. Braille lots of letters and put Velcro on the back of them. The teacher thinks of a word and the pupils suggest letters in French. If they are right, stick the letter on the appropriate spot.

lunch tray with velcro spots stuck in rows for hangman game

Tactile Battleships

I have actually used an unmodified battleship board for this, as long as the holes are easy to feel. You could also use apple boxes or egg boxes. The letters across the horizontal axis represent ‘je’ ‘tu’ ‘il’ ‘elle’ ‘nous’ etc. and the numbers across the vertical axis represent the verbs ‘aimer’ ‘jouer’ ‘regarder’ etc. The pupil has to create the correct subject and verb comibination before they can sink a ship. Remember to say “coulé” for sunk and “raté” for missed!

Braille Bingo

I used card from a toy game which had windows in it (see picture). I then brailled some numbers between 1 and 20 (you can also do numbers from 10 to 200 counting in tens) and glued them behind the windows. These are then permanent bingo cards for Braille users. Alternatively, the pupil can come up with their own bingo numbers on a Brailler but this is sometimes more fun and saves time.

large piece of card with 4 windows cut in it

Word Games

I found this DIY game (see picture) for SNAP but wrote letters in large print and put sticky braille on them. They are visually quite different from the back to the front so great for pupils with low vision. You can play SNAP or any sort of word game with them, including Hangman. This could be used for any subject and for learning Braille.

Cards with letters in large print and braille

[ Modified: Tuesday, 9 October 2018, 11:51 AM ]
 
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by Learning Hub - Tuesday, 2 October 2018, 9:55 AM
Anyone in the world

This week's sign is "Yogurt."

Brush fingertips across chin.

On-body signing is a technique used to communicate with people with multiple disabilities and visual impairment. The Royal Blind School in Edinburgh developed a form of on-body signing called Canaan Barrie.

A different sign will be posted on our blog each week. Come back next week to see a new sign.

 
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by Learning Hub - Tuesday, 25 September 2018, 10:58 AM
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By Karen Osterloh, Royal Blind School Librarian

The Royal Blind School has been making use of the tactile resources of the Living Paintings’ Library for some time now. We are always looking for ways to foster a love of reading and Living Paintings books help to make stories more real for our pupils with a vision impairment. Living paintings books come with raised tactile images of the characters or items mentioned in the book, so that pupils can explore the story through touch as well as sound. The tactile images in their “Touch to see” collection bring stories to life; and accompanying braille and audio help to consolidate learning.

Anyone can join the Living Paintings Library for free including teachers, parents and organisations, and their titles are suitable for anyone from pre-school to adult.

Our recent loans have included “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson complete with tactile images of the witch and cauldron, a broom with the cat, dog and bird and the dragon. They also have topical packs. For example, the “Explore the seashore” pack contains a tactile map of the British Isles and various shells, pirates and seaside wildlife objects.

Another useful resource is the Living Paintings Discovery Hub which supports various subject areas (e.g. science, transport, dinosaurs) with music, audio, video and links to various educational resources.

The Online Library is easy to search for book titles or topics and can be searched by various criteria including age, school year group, braille grade, and restricted by media type.

Living Paintings’ brilliant resources enrich the learning experience for our pupils and help make learning more fun!

[ Modified: Tuesday, 25 September 2018, 11:10 AM ]