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Exceptionality 2 – Vision Impairments

Amy Jeong

EDTE 532

A vision impairment is an exceptionality that can be defined as “impairment of vision

that can have detrimental effects on physical, neurological, cognitive, and emotional
development” (Batshaw, 2002). A vision impairment can happen from a variety of factors
such as physical trauma, injury, infections, congenital conditions or medical conditions, and
the number of students with this exceptionality has increased over the last decades. Not all
students with vision impairments will face the same learning difficulties, as they vary widely
depending on the severity of the condition. The main three classifications or levels of vision
impairment are low vision, functionally blind, and totally blind. Teachers may be able to use
their usual teaching techniques with some modifications with students who have low vision.
However, students with very little or no vision will need major modifications in order to be
successful in regular classrooms. Li states that “vision is intimately involved with 70 to 80%
of all tasks that occur in our educational programs” (Li, 2009). In order to meet the needs of
each student with this exceptionality, teachers will need to implement alternative teaching
strategies and accommodations.

Typical learning and behavioural challenges for students with vision impairments:


Attention -Initial attention to directions/information
-Problems with visual attention
-Attention span (length of time on task)
-Focus (inhibition of distracting stimuli)
-Selective attention (discrimination of
important stimulus characteristics)
Memory -Problems with visual memory
-Problems with concept development
Oral Communication Problems -Relatively unimpaired
Intellectual abilities -Relatively normal
Language Development -Difficulty with receptive and expressive
-Delayed acquisition of vocabulary and
language rules
-Limited visual cues related to language
Academic Deficiencies -Delayed acquisition of reading, writing,
and mathematical skills
-Decoding of text
-Reading comprehension
-Math computation
-Problem-solving in mathematics
-Self-directed expressive writing
Social Behavioral Interactions -Repetitive, stereotypical behaviours
-Social immaturity
-Unable to use nonverbal cues
-Peer acceptance
Orientation and Mobility Problems -Difficulty using spatial information
-Difficulty moving from one place to

Learning strategies to support students with vision impairments:


Attention -Provide auditory cues that indicate
important information
-Provide oral information in short amounts
-Provide information, such as directions
and important information, in auditory
-Provide directions on tape recorder
Memory -Stress meaningful content
-Provide strategies instruction
-Use multisensory presentation of
information, primarily auditory and tactile
Language Development -Create environment that encourages
verbal communication
-Encourage expression of thoughts
-Provide appropriate language models
-Provide opportunities for students to learn
language for varied purposes and with
different audiences
Academic Deficiencies -Use learning strategies to promote
effective studying
-Teach strategies for decoding unknown
words for students with residual vision
-Provide strategies to promote reading
comprehension and math problem solving
-Develop functional writing skills
-Adapt curriculum to promote success
-Encourage and support independent
-Encourage shared reading and writing
-Teachers must use effective
communication skills
-Use technology aids
Social Behavioral Interactions -Promote social competence through direct
instruction of skills
-Reinforce appropriate behaviors
-Seek self-understanding of reasons for
inappropriate behavior
-Teach self-management, self-control
-Develop peer social support systems
Orientation and Mobility Problems -Provide orientation to classroom and
-Re-orient student when physical layout

Physical activity of children with visual impairments:

-Research shows that individuals with visual impairments become less physically active with
age. Here are ways to increase physical health among students with this exceptionality:

 Promote peer involvement in physical activity

 Ensure safety provisions are in place for family members.

 Provide children with visual impairments with the necessary skills to engage in
physical activities

 Involve family members in the physical activities of children

 Provide school programs that are supportive of home activities

 Focus school programs on fitness as well as recreational activities

Some curricular and instructional considerations for students with vision impairments:

 Avoid using both sides of the paper (ink often bleeds through, making it difficult to
see either side)

 Avoid old or light worksheet masters

 Copy over lines that are light with a dark marker

 Do not use colored paper -it limits contrast

 Vary the type of instruction used, and include lessons that incorporate hands-on
activities, cooperative learning, or the use of real-life materials

 Use high-contrast materials, whether on paper or on the chalkboard – dry-erase

boards might be preferable

 Avoid using materials with gloss surfaces and, if possible, dittoed material

 Use large-print materials only after other methods have been attempted and
proved unsuccessful

 Use environmental connector (e.g., ropes) and other adaptations for students with
visual problems for physical education or recreational activities

 Avoid using written materials with pages that are too crowded

Apps to support students with vision impairments:

 Dragon Dictation
 Light Detector
 Color ID
 TapTapSee
 Talking Calculator
 SayText
 AccessNote
 Visual Brailler
Batshaw, M. L. (2002). Children with disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Li, A. (2009) Identification and intervention for students who are visually impaired and who
have autism spectrum disorders. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41,22-31.

Smith, T. E. (2009). Teaching students with special needs in inclusive settings.