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Visual Impairment :
Special Educational Needs

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HELPING VISUALLY IMPAIRED PUPILS IN SCHOOL

School staff must be given sufficient information about the VI pupil to understand how to support them. It is unlikely that each teacher and support assistant will have access to the pupil's EHCP and will probably be given some information by the SENCo. On occasion we have drafted staff information sheets on behalf of the parents for them to provide for staff with the co-operation of the SENCo.

Click here for an example of a staff information sheet.

School staff can help the visually impaired pupil to feel included, be safe and to understand what is happening around him/her by being aware of appropriate strategies etc. These will help maintain positive self-esteem and help access to the curriculum.

Severely visually impaired pupils obtain much of the information about what is happening around them aurally. Many are frightened or confused by sudden loud noises or if the environment is generally noisy, i.e. a lot of people talking.

Staff should always introduce themselves to the pupil and encourage other pupils to say who they are when they speak.

Verbalize praise and disapproval as a severely visually impaired pupil will not see gestures, body language or facial expressions.

Be specific with descriptive language and avoid using terms like “here” or “there” when describing the location of a person or an object.

Talk directly to the pupil rather than through an accompanying person.

It’s OK to use normal language such as “good to see you”. The VI pupil understands what you mean.

Familiarize the pupil with the environment and keep classrooms, corridors and stairs free of clutter. Let the him/her know if the environment changes, e.g. furniture has been moved. Make sure that doors and cupboards are either fully open or fully closed.

Make sure that teachers, LSAs and other pupils are familiar with the sighted guide technique and ask the pupil’s permission before giving physical assistance.

Verbal commentaries can help the pupil understand what is going on around him/her so talk while you are teaching. Remember that a severely visually impaired pupil will miss visual clues, written instructions and much of the incidental learning that sighted pupils get. You may find the pupil needs additional explanation. When the class begins a task it may be useful to check with the pupil to ensure comprehension.

Encourage quality over quantity for written work as visual impaired pupils often take longer to read and write than their sighted peers.

Discipline and behaviour expectations are the same for visually impaired pupils.

Encourage independent effort and incorporate pro-active behaviour to reduce the likelihood of becoming dependent. Part of the education outcome for a visually impaired pupil is to achieve complete autonomy.

Do not underestimate the visually impaired pupil’s potential. Visual impairment does not reduce his/her cognitive ability. Visual impairment is a barrier to accessing the curriculum and is not a learning difficulty. Low expectations are common place and many teachers state that “Xxxx is doing so well and is coping with school”. They would not have such low expectations of a sighted pupil. VI pupils should thrive at school not just cope.