The Visually Impaired Child|
by Dave Melanson
Active Participation Exercises -
Ways to Sensitize Your Students to the Needs of Sight Impaired Peers
I have found that one of the most effective ways to learn and experience what a sight impaired person really feels and experiences is through the act of "role playing." Role playing allows people to actually stand in the shoes of a sight impaired person and experience for themselves some of the challenges and obstacles faced by the sight impaired individual.
Here are some helpful exercises you may wish to try with your students to allow them to better understand how sight impaired individuals (and other differently-abled people) overcome challenges in their everyday lives. You may want to have your students write about their experiences in a journal and later have a group discussion about how they felt when participating in these exercises.
Have your students put on blindfolds, then have them take off one shoe. Put all of the shoes in a large pile and then have them, through sense of touch only, try to locate their shoe in the pile with their blindfold on. This exercise will help your students to better understand how a totally blind person must use their other senses to make up for their lack of vision.
Have the students then write about this experience in a journal, asking them to write about how they felt and how they would have to adapt their lives if they were totally blind, and how would they overcome specific challenges. Then, have a class group discussion and ask them to offer solutions and ideas which they feel would allow a blind person to live an independent life which is safe, productive and happy.
This exercise involves your students acting out this situation. (You, the teacher, might want to play the part of one of the members of the group in order to lead the role play in the desired direction.)
Tell the children they have just learned that they will be having a new student in their class named "Jackie," and that she is visually impaired. It is now recess time and they are outside in the school yard, talking about the new student. Role play that they do not want to play with her because "it would not be cool" to have Jackie in their group. The group talks about the thick glasses she wears and how "nerdy" she looks. One or more volunteers play the understanding students who contribute empathetic responses such as, "That isn't nice. How would you feel if someone did that to you?."
Guide the actors into a lively discussion with the sympathetic student finally convincing the rest of the group to accept Jackie and for them to be her friends. The exercise ends with a member from another playgroup coming over and asking why they have Jackie in their group, announcing that their group does not want to play with a group which includes Jackie. So as long as they have her in the group, "We will not play with you either." Lead the discussion until everyone in Jackie's group stands up for her and tells the other student that they are all her friends and that she is really a nice person.
Upon completion of this exercise have your students write about this situation in a journal. This will be a wonderful way for you as their teacher to detect and put in check any signs of intolerance by judging how your students write about this situation.
Have a group discussion in class about this exercise and ask your students how they would feel if someone excluded them unfairly or judged them without really knowing them and without knowing or acknowledging what their assets are. This would be a good time to point out to your students that everyone cannot be good at the same things, that some people are weak in certain areas yet demonstrate a tremendous strength in others. And, most importantly, by everyone being different, this allows us to all learn from each other and makes the world such an exciting place to live in.
David Melanson, frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette,
has just self-published Integration: A Rewarding Experience, a manual for educators on the topic of working with sight-impaired students. As a sight-impaired person whose parents persisted in having their son placed in "regular" (public school) classrooms, David's experiences, perspective, and advice are particularly interesting and helpful. The manual is interesting and worthy of reading even if one does not currently have a sight-impaired student in class.
The cost in the U.S. is $10 plus $2 .45 for postage. In Canada: $15 Canadian plus $1 .45 postage. Money orders are preferred. To order the manual, contact Mr. Melanson by e-mail: email@example.com. Should you have difficulty reaching Dave directly, contact Kathleen Carpenter firstname.lastname@example.org with "Melanson Manual" in the subject line.
To access monthly chats on the topic of working with sight-impaired students, moderated by David Melanson, visit the Teachers.Net Archives.
Sight Impaired Students, December 12, 2001
Integration Of Visually Impaired And Blind Students Into The Regular Schools
Accommodating the Visually Impaired Child
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, Sept. 21, 2000
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, December 6, 2000
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, February 15, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, May 7, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, July 19, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, August 6, 2001
Working With the Sight Impaired Students, October 23, 2001