Friday, January 28, 2005

Team Work vs Independence

Your visually impaired student's life is affected on an everyday basis which means that adaptations must be made to help him learn in a safe environment while developing his skills to not only become independent but also become an active member of our society. Here are some tips to help him reach these goals.

  • There is no room for pity! Your student may sometimes feel helpless enough without have to feel that everyone in his environment is feeling sorry for him. He could either become frustrated and chose to avoid social contact or could start using people to do things for him that he can do on his own. Either way, pity will create more problems than be helpful. Also, by having others accomplishing things for him, he will gradually show a lack of confidence in himself and his abilities which can only have a negative impact on his life.

  • Team work is important. Your student must learn how to develop both his social skills as well as his potential as a team member. In our society, your student will have to work with colleagues in several occasions. If your student does not participate actively because he is used to have others do his share, he will not be able to enjoy a job for long as his services will not be retained after a few weeks or even days. You must make adaptations that will give him the opportunity to become an active team member. For example, if he is able to use the computer by changing the size of the font on the screen or using a special software, he will be able to do some research for his team.

  • Learning is a process. Your student might sometimes want to take the easy way out, but you must persevere and show him that a task is only difficult until you know how to accomplish it. It takes time and effort but in the end, the product will be worth it. Show him how to do a task, step by step, make him do this task over and over in several occasions as practice makes perfect. Also, when he encounters some challenges, ask him to try to find a solution on his own prior to helping him out as there will not always be someone available to help him out every time. Make him realize that he will become self-sufficient in life is by becoming an active participant who shows that he is capable and willing to work hard. This way, he will be able to be on his own one day and maybe even have a family that can count on him and his support.

  • Variety is one of the keys to success. Your student must work in a variety of situations, groups and environments to be able to adapt to the life in our society. You should provide numerous situations that will provide him both social skills that will enable him to work actively as a team member as well as the abilities necessary to develop his independence. That is why the adaptations that you make to help him out must be present in every area in his life. For example, in every class, there should be adaptations made to help him in participating actively in every aspect in life. Discuss these adaptations with your colleagues, the students services, the administration and his parents.

  • Do what you preach! To be able to develop social skills and personal skills that will enable your visually impaired student to become both an active team member and also an independent individual that can take good care of himself, you must model those skills yourself. For example, when you talk about becoming and active group member, show your student how important it is to develop these skills by working as a team with your colleagues, the administration and his parents. When you want to teach him about the importance of becoming independent as it will give him the opportunity to become self-sufficient, show him that sometimes, you can count on people's help for certain things but not for everything. Discuss with him that as he gets older, he will be alone more and more and must be able to provide for himself. Let him know that he can do it and prove his fears and concerns to be wrong.

By using these tips, you will see both a lot of progress in your student's development as well as a considerable increase in his self-esteem when he realizes that he may now have a lot of vision but he can see himself as a successful individual that has a lot to offer to our society while also not feeling unable to fend for himself.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Step by Step

When you teach to a student that is visually impaired, every educational activity represents a challenge for him. That is why you should always guide him, every step of the way. How do you do this? Follow these instructions and you will both benefit from them.

  • Choose an activity and analyze the educational goals that you wish for your student to attain by the time it is complete. Since your students already is facing the challenges of being visually impaired, the chosen activity should be chosen meticulously.

  • Identify the steps that your student must follow to complete successfully the activity. It will prevent frustration caused by difficulties while trying to figure out how to do it.

  • Describe each step of the activity in great details. It would be easier for your student if the steps were describe orally, on a tape recorder that he can forward and rewind according to his needs than writing them down. After all, reading on a sheet of paper is a challenge in itself and can be quite frustrating for your student.

  • A picture is worth a thousand words and when you describe each little step to your student while giving oral instructions, you will notice that to "picture" how to complete the chosen activity, the words and the details that they describe will not only be helpful but also precious as they will prevent frustration and wasted time. This way, your student will really learn and fully understand the concept taught as well as being able to attain the educational goals that you set for him through this activity.

  • Make sure that your activity is ready with all the necessary material displayed on one surface, avoiding the need to run around and face additional challenges. Not having the activity fully prepared will create unnecessary difficulties and add to the frustration level of your student.

  • Encourage your student to become independent as in "the real life", help will not always be as easily available as it is in class. Make it a safe environment as well as an educational one, not only on the academic level but also on the personal one.

  • Encourage group participation as in life, your student will need to do his share as a team member, especially in the work place. Discourage team members when they try to help by doing your visually impaired student's work for him.

Follow these tips and you will both benefit from them...on a regular basis as they are tools to be used to built a positive tomorrow.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tips for Useful Material

As the time goes, both your visually impaired student and yourself will experiment and evaluate several types of material or tools to use in your teaching to improve your student's effective learning. Here are some of them:

  • When you use the overhead projector, try several colours because sometimes, certain colours might be too dark or too bright to read easily.

  • When you write on a black or white board, try several sizes of writing and a variety of colours of chalk or dry erase markers. Sometimes, the size of writing may facilitate your student's reading and his/her comprehension. Also, certain colours of chalks or markers may make it difficult or impossible for your student to read and understand the content of the notes on the board.

  • You may either contact CNIB to get resources such as special lined sheets of paper. The lines are darker, thicker and are more spaced out, making it easier for your visually impaired students to find and write on the lines.

  • When you use the projector to share the content of a page or a presentation on the Internet, make sure that the background is not too dark and that the writing is adapted to a bigger size.

  • When your visually impaired student is working on a project on the computer, allow your student to write and print his/her project with the most comfortable size for him/her to read it easily.

  • When your student needs to highlight some information on a page, find out first if he/she is uncomfortable with any colours. If he/she is unable to read the highlighted information because the colour interferes or affect his/her reading, you could either make the following change or ask your student to do it. You could add a large frame around the information so it would be both easier to find and read it.

  • Always make sure that every person involved with your visually impaired student use these adaptations as well. Some classes, like Music or Physical Education can also contact you, the resource teacher or CNIB for obtaining ideas and resources to have your visually impaired student learn effectively and participate safely in other educational environments.

  • Have your student use a powerful magnifying glass to facilitate the reading of documents such as books. Also enquire if you are legally able to photocopy these pages for the purpose of enlarging the writing to facilitate your student's reading and comprehension.

  • Sometimes, some movies are also adapted for the visually impaired as there is a narrator describing all the details of the pictures or scenes.

  • If your student is quite young, use books that contain touch and feel material.

  • The use of markers may be easier to use and easier to see than pencil crayons. If your student is young and that the main goal of an activity is to colour a shape, enlarge the lines of the shape, either manually with a marker or by using the photocopier's enlarging feature.

  • During lunch time, it might be easier for your student to be able to use a food tray so it his/her food can be easily displayed in a pattern that makes it easier to locate the several items on it.

As you can see, some details might seem unsignificant to someone who is not visually impaired but believe me when I say that these simples adaptations make a world of a difference for your visually impaired student.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Orientation Tips

Sometimes, your visually impaired student might have a problem finding his belongings. Use these few tips to diminish his/her level of stress and the amount of time wasted in the search of objects.

  • Can't find an eraser or a pencil? Tie is to your student's desk so if if falls, he/she will be able to retrieve it easily.

  • Can't find his/her outside clothes? Provide the last hook or the first or last locker of a row so your student is not being caught between two people, having to count his/her way to his/her space or is not stopping people from coming and going avoiding him/her to be involved in frustrating situations.

  • Can't find his mittens or other outside clothing items? Give your student a routine to follow if he/she doesn't have one already. Show him/her to put certain items always in the same place. For example, to put his/her mittens in the left sleeve of his/her jacket. Also, provide a shelf or a container if necessary that would only be used by this student.

  • Can a classmate help out? Always encourage students that are offering their help but also let them know that your visually impaired student will be the one to ask for help first as sometimes, someone's help can be more problematic than helpful if it interferes with your students routines.

  • Can helping my visually impaired student be affecting negatively his/her independence? Always encourage your student to try on his/her own first as you are showing him/her to become independent in life as much as possible as help is not always available. Also explain to your student that he/she must be the one to ask for assistance and only after trying it several times first.

  • What about bullying? There is no place for bullying at all! Having a student with special needs or not, bullying is to be dealt with and stopped right away!

  • How to go from point A to point B in the school, in a safe manner? Invite your visually impaired student with his parents to school prior to the first day of school. This way, you can safely guide him/her through the school without all the commotion of a first day of school. Give him/her clues or objects that are located by a room to help identify it more easily. Help him/her count doors and even meet with other staff members that he/she will interact with during the school year.

Believe me, those useful tips will help both of you to have a more positive school year.