In this blog you’ll find guidelines for adapting the playground environment for your blind and partially sighted pupils.
The outside playground environment can be very difficult for pupils with vision impairment to navigate especially if there are large open spaces. Restrict play to smaller areas until they are familiar and also show them where play equipment is located as they will not see it from a distance. Playground area markers/colours are useful. You can teach the pupil to navigate to a certain point in the playground and encourage his sighted classmates to be aware of this. Setting up peer play opportunities in this area will encourage sighted children to stay and play.
Make sure children know what is available for them to play with. Children with VI often stick to one area/toy in a play environment because they cannot see what is available in other parts of the room, or the toys do not have good tactile interest. They also tend to stick to the activity which is safe and familiar, where they understand the ‘rules’ and know they won’t make mistakes. A lot of thought needs to go into scaffolding a play environment which is stimulating but also peer appropriate so that others will engage in play.
Learn more by watching the Let Me Play video.
Lisa Olson came all the way over from San Diego in America to attend our seminar on Tactile Graphics and Tactile Book Making, which we hosted at the Royal Blind School last month.
Lisa has kindly reflected on her experience and you can read it below:
I am so happy to have discovered the Royal Blind Learning Hub. In my current pursuit to learn as much as I can about best practices for supporting and empowering students who are blind or partially sighted, I have found your standout collection of resources to be of great help. Bravo to the Royal Blind team for your noble work--and with your web presence, the information you share now has a global reach! (You reached me across the Atlantic in San Diego! And it is clear your efforts can make a positive difference for students, educators, and advocates for the blind in other parts of the world as well.)
Thank you also for hosting the face-to-face teacher training seminars at the Royal Blind School campus in Edinburgh. Visiting your school in person, and participating in the Tactile Graphics seminar, was an invaluable experience for me. I am grateful for numerous worthwhile takeaways, including: new insights into tactile graphics theory and strong literacy development; new ideas for creating meaningful and effective multi-sensory learning resources collections; more exposure to state-of-the-art tactile graphics production options and technologies; and the opportunity (and privilege!) to meet and learn from Royal Blind staff and other Teachers of Vision Impairment from schools throughout Scotland.
As a college reference librarian, I currently work with post-secondary students in a large public community college system in San Diego, California. My visit to the Royal Blind School contributed greatly to my latest professional development goal of learning more about how I can most effectively advocate for our blind students' needs at the college level ... and how I can help break down barriers still encountered by blind students who are transitioning into the college experience.
In the final part of this blog we complete our guidelines for adapting your classroom for your blind and partially sighted pupils.
It is important to create a clutter free and organised environment around the pupil with vision impairment. It is good to have a set of drawers close to their desk with braille/tactile/large print labels for storing jotters, paper and other adapted resources. This ensures easy access to their materials and fosters a level of independence.
An organised environment also reduces their need to move unnecessarily around the classroom which takes time away from their task. It helps to keep finished work trays in the same place, making sure they have clear print/tactile labels or are different colours so the pupil can easily locate them.
There is no reason why a child with vision impairment cannot be part of the class routine of handing out the jotters, each jotter just requires a large print or braille label.
Be aware that what you put on the walls is unlikely to be seen clearly, if at all, by your pupils. If you do want them to view something on the walls it important to take them and show them where it is and make sure they know they are allowed to leave their seat when they need to use it, e.g. word wall. It is good for your pupils to have a desk copy of something they may need to refer to frequently.
For a pupil with no vision obviously it is not possible for them to access teaching information from the walls, however it is important that they know if their work has been put on the walls and how to locate that should they want to show someone. It is a good idea to make parts of any wall display tactile and have braille labelling.
Matt laminates can be purchased to eliminate glare from information on the walls. Some children who are blind may still have some light perception and it is important to have as much of an understanding of how they see as possible.
Learn how Velcro (hook and loop) boards are useful resources for blind and partially sighted students in our video How to Make Velcro Print and Braille Boards.
In the first part of this blog you’ll find guidelines for adapting your classroom for blind and partially sighted pupils.
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
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.
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.
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.
The guide gives advice and guidance on what to expect with:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
Each pupil received a Reading Passport in braille or large print according to individual requirements.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
By Lauren Lockhart, Languages Teacher, Royal Blind School.
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
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!
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.
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.