The Visually Impaired Student and Their Experience in School
by Dave Melanson
Hi everyone thank you for taking the time to read this article. I want to discuss the accademic and social experiences a sight-impaired or blind student has in school and how this can affect the way they perform in the classroom. We all know that children do best in an environment that is not stressful and there is a lot of tension, but rather in a classroom where there is a tremendous desire to be creative and where learning is encouraged, a classroom that is innovative and has a positive environment. In the case of the sight-impaired child, when visual activities are taking place within the classroom or anything involving active participation it is important to try to include the sight-impaired or blind child as much as possible in the verbal participation, to encourage that child to "open up" and be an equal contributor to classroom discussion and activities.
In some cases the sight-impaired student may have only a selective small group of friends from their class that they tend to stay with. This may be because some of the other students are not as accepting of them during recess or game times. This can also affect the child's overall attitude toward school as they may feel iscolated or less important. When this happens it can also affect them academically. It is always a good idea for the teacher to encourage all students to accept one another and encourage students to help one another. It seems that the younger a sight-impaired child is mainstreamed into the regular classroom, the easier it is for that child to adapt to the routine of school and the classroom. In many cases the same students move up in grade each year as the sight-impaired child so this can foster a positive relationship between that student and their classmates. For example if the sight-impaired child were to start regular school in Kindergarten the children would be exposed to that student at an early enough age where tolerence and understanding can be built on. This often stays with the students as they move up in grade together.
On the other hand if a sight-impaired student is integrated into the regular classroom at a later age, for example grade 5 or 6, that student will undoubtedly find it very difficult to adapt to the regular classroom life, and in some cases the other students will not be very used to being around a sight-impaired child. This can sometimes result in teasing or bullying that student. If you factor in all the problems there - mainly that the sight-impaired student is not used to a regular classroom environment and is suddenly integrated in their later elementary years combined with the pressure from other students - this can all result in negative reaction for the sight-impaired child. From my own experience as a student I was mainstreamed right away from Kindergarten right through university, this meant that I had not been exposed to the sudden shock of going from a protective school environment of visually impaired students into a much larger classroom at a later time. I believe that this is the best approach to take as it prepares the sight-impaired child for the "real world" of work once they have left school.
There is much help available out there in terms of resources and itinerant teacher services that will allow the sight-impaired student to function in the regular classroom environment and at the same time recieve their own services of assistance should they require them. I hope that if you have a sight-impaired student in your classroom that it has been a positive experience rather than negative and that you can honestly say that this was a learning experience for both yourself as the teacher and the sight-impaired student.
I have developed several audio tapes from previous seminars I have given on the topic of mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired children. I am willing to sell these tapes for $10 U.S. each. If there is any school district that is interested in purchasing a tape, please contact me:
702 Riverview Ave
Verdun Quebec Canada H4H 2C1
About Dave Melanson...
Dave Melanson is located in Montreal Canada. He has four years experience presenting seminars and sensitization training to elementary schoolteachers on mainstreaming and integrating visually impaired and blind children into the regular classroom. During the past 2 years he has begun to branch outside of the Montreal area and is now covering other Canadian Provinces as well as the U.S. When giving seminars Dave brings with him a briefcase of 10 pairs of simulator glasses, each allowing the wearer to experience a different type of visual impairment.
Dave will provide a tape of a previous seminar to any school district interested in booking a presentation in order to demonstrate the topics he covers with regard to integration and mainstreaming a sight impaired or blind child.
You may contact Dave for more information by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: 514 7683264. Dave can also be found in the Teachers.Net chatroom many evenings during the week, logged on as Dave/Montreal.