The Art of Adaptations:
Artwork and Table Activities for Young Children with a Visual Impairment
Children with visual impairments can have difficulty with some fine motor activities and games. Even a simple task like coloring, cutting, then gluing a drawing on paper can have special challenges if vision is also an issue. The goal is to have the materials adapted so that the child can concentrate on the skills being learned, not having to work hard on visual tasks.
a. Beading and Lacing:
1. Specific Activity Area: Place items within a clear border to keep all items together.
a. Use a placemat, tray, solid colored cloth, etc.
a. Keep simple containers in easy reach for different, especially new, tasks.
b. Paper and plastic plates, bowls, Tupperware-type containers, egg cartons, ice-cube trays, muffin tins, etc. are all great for crafts and activities.
Using these small adaptations as a guide will allow young children with visual impairments to learn visual motor tasks and play games with ease.
Jacinda Danner, M. Ed.
BASIC CONCEPTS EXAMPLES EARLY DRAWINGS -Shape names-Shape concepts-Sizes-Positional concepts-Numbers-Relationship to... Circle, oval, rectangle, trapezoidSquare/Rectangle similarities and differencesSmall, medium, large, bigger, smallest, tiny, hugeOn, off, next to, over, under, below, above,Number names and amounts, first, second, last, all, none, etc.Next to, same, different, over, below, etc. Human FacePerson's BodyAnimals(4- legged)HouseSunTreeBirds
1. Please mention my name so I know you are speaking to me. Tell me your name each time we meet.
Think about how many people you know by sight. You still may not recognize people immediately, especially in different settings, with different haircuts, etc. People who are blind recognize people by their voices, but many voices can be similar. Asking, “Who am I?” just by voice is no fun. Being overly impressed when I know who you are by voice is also not a huge accomplishment. You know who I am by looking, and I may know who you are by listening.
2. Please use words like “see” and “look”. I may “watch” a movie by listening, but I use these words, too. There are a lot of meanings to “see”, “look”, “watch”, etc.
3. Please speak normally. Speak directly to me, and face me. Use my name so I know you are speaking to me. Don’t get nervous, talk too fast, or shout. I am just like you.
4. Please don’t make a big deal of my listening skills. My hearing is good, but not supernatural. I need to listen more and rely on what I hear, so I have strong listening skills. Close your eyes for 5 minutes and you will hear new sounds: the fan, curtains flapping, people chatting two rooms away. After 5 minutes, your inability to look around has improved your listening skills, too. I have years of listening practice, and am not distracted by visuals. Be impressed, but please don’t call attention to it.
5. I use all the vision I do have. Almost all people who are ‘blind’ have some vision. This may be just the ability to see dark from light, while some can see large shapes, or even color. Some of us can see you coming down the hall, but you are a big, moving blur. Even if I look both ways before crossing the street, please don’t think I’m pretending to be blind, or don’t really need my cane. I need my tools: magnifier, long white cane, braille, and even all of my remaining vision, to be independent and safe.
6. Shaking hands & High-fiving is a two-step process for me.
a. Handshake: If we are meeting, and we both say, “Nice to meet you,” I’ll probably put my hand out. Help me out by grabbing it for the handshake.
b. Please tell me if you want to shake my hand: “Let’s shake on that,” or similar. I’ll put my hand in your direction. You can find it and shake.
c. If you want to “Give me five” or “High-five”, tell me, then touch my hand first.
i. Say,“Great! Give me five!”
ii. Place your hand under mine, face up, touching it lightly.
iii. Don’t move your hand. I’ll move my hand back and slap yours.
iv. Don’t flinch : )
7. Giving me something is also a two-step process. First tell me, then have it lightly touch my hand.
a. When you say, “Here’s your prize,” I’ll put my hand out.
b. Have the prize lightly touch my hand, and I will take it.
c. If you forget to tell me first, you may be there all day holding it out because I can’t see your gesture.
d. If you don’t have it touch my hand, groping about is usually not very successful for me and can be embarrassing.
8. Please say, “Of course you can.” Have high expectations for me, just like you do for everyone else. Try not to pre-judge. This is my life, and it is just fine. I don’t really think about my vision or vision loss much at all. This is just who I am. Please try not to show pity, help too much, try to fix me, or assume I can’t do something because I can’t see well.
9. Please include me in EVERYTHING! We will figure out how I can do it later.
a. My friends or I have played or participated in:
i. Regular Tee-Ball and Little League "I use a beeping baseball. I like baseball!”- 4 year old girl, totally blind
ii. Track and Field and Cross Country Running “My running guide is alongside, both of us holding my favorite tether.”
iii. Wrestling- “I like to use my cane all the way to the mat, where I hand it off to the referee, just to freak out the opponent. When we wrestle, I just feel what moves he is making.”- 8th grader
iv. Competitive Swimming- “I fold up my cane at the pool’s edge, and can see the huge black line on the bottom of the pool to know when to turn.”-7th grader
v. Kayaking or canoeing alone on a lake. “I leave a radio playing at the lake’s edge so I can get back.”- 10th grader
vi. Shop Class, Sewing Class, Home Economics Class, Art Class. “I use a ‘push-stick’ or guide so my fingers don’t get too close to the saw blade, needle, etc. I might have braille or special tactual marks on my equipment (saw, sewing machine, stove), or raised lines on the floor to keep me oriented to the woodshop space. In art class, I like to know what color I am using, and what looks good together.” – combination of quotes from all students
vii. PE- “I like my Adapted PE teacher. She brings bright balls that beep and shows me how I can play the games, too.”- 2nd grader.
viii. Bicycling Club: “We borrowed a tandem bike (bicycle built for two) and had a teen volunteer ride in front. I checked the bike before we left, decided how fast to go, and made sure my guide had all her safety equipment on.” (2nd grade)
ix. Those who are blind participate in: downhill skiing, Judo, cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, school tumbling class, dog show presenter, presenting to a Congressman, and much more.
10. I don’t need to feel your face. Feeling people’s faces is a myth, and is just in the movies. I know who you are: I can tell how tall you are, what perfume you like, and I truly know you by the expression in your voice and how you treat me.
11. Explain visual jokes, television, or movies. If I ask, a few words to explain visual things on the movie really helps. Most new movies have a free option for “Video Description” on the DVD or download. This is great, and doesn’t interrupt the dialogue at all.
12. Please don’t help me without asking. I will usually ask if I need help, and teach you how to help or guide me. Sometimes I don’t do things like you do, and may take a little longer for some tasks. Ask if I need help, but please don’t be offended if I say, “No”. I have worked very hard to be independent.
13. My cane has to touch something for me to know it is there. Don’t be upset if I hit your toes with my cane or worry about me tapping the door with my cane before I move through it. That is just how it works. “Yep, using a cane is a contact sport.”- 10th grade student new to a cane.
14. Please be kind and respectful. Almost everyone is great and helpful. However, we have all had at least one experience with a bully, or other mean or insensitive behavior.
a. “A kid in the lunchroom hid my hamburger, and finally put it on the floor in the corner, saying, “Can you see it now?” I ‘accidentally’ spilled ranch dressing on his face. He got in trouble, I didn’t.”- 11th grader
b. Overheard between two high school girls, both cane users. “What do you do when kids at school hide your cane?”
c. A teenager was trying to buy food at a convenience store. “I was just thinking about what I wanted to buy. The clerk grabbed my wallet. He thought I couldn’t count my money, and was trying to help by picking out the correct bills. I was quick enough to hold on, showed him how I fold it, and that I was OK.”
d. “Placing obstacles in my path, throwing things at me and laughing, rearranging furniture, moving or taking my stuff, calling me names, taking me to the wrong place and leaving me, making fun of my eyes, or how I have to do things (braille, cane, etc), - have all happened to at least one of us. Usually we fend for ourselves, but if we ask for help, please take it seriously.” 11th grader combining everyone's experiences
15. Help others treat all with respect and kindness. Most people just need more knowledge, empathy, and education. Maybe reading this will help them, too.
Cross Country Running
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|Colored Overlays pertain to people with learning disabilities (LD), which can include visual processing issues. These DO NOT generally pertain to people with true visual impairments. I am often asked about this topic, and include it here for use by special educators, parents, and as general information.|