The Visually Impaired Child
How You Can Be Their Hope and Role Model for A Positive Future
by Dave Melanson
It has been often stated that teachers shape minds and prepare our children for the future. You as a teacher have tremendous power and influence over your classroom to shape and build the children of tomorrow. In doing so, you are paving the way and guiding these children.
In the case of the sight impaired child, it is very important to remember that they must use their other senses to make up for their loss of eyesight, their emotions and sometimes the way that they relate to others may seem different. It is very important that proper social skills be transmitted to the sight impaired child to ensure that they act within the norms and expectations of our society and of what the world around them expects of them. This is not always easy to accomplish since many young sight impaired children are not "drawn out" into the rest of society at an early age. They are often aloof from others and tend to develop bad habits such as rocking back and forth - things that other children and adults around them tend to think of as being antisocial or out of the general norm of behaviour.
This is why the sight impaired child needs to be "drawn out" at a very young age, they need to know that their feelings, emotions, and input to society are valued and respected. As a classroom teacher you are able to draw this child out by the way that you both interact and react with them.
It has been my experience that a gentle, kind and soft approach is best. The child first needs to gain trust in you as a teacher to know that you are there to guide and assist and that they can talk to you and feel comfortable about knowing that you as their teacher will not unfairly judge them or shun their concerns and feelings. You must be able to also walk a thin line of not "spoon feeding" or "over spoiling" the sight impaired child as the consequences of this may result in the child becoming dependent on others. The real goal here is to ensure as much independence of the sight impaired child as possible.
In chatting with many classroom teachers I have found that when it comes to story time, many have found ways to make the story come alive for sight impaired children. Tjeu dp this by having items for the child to touch, feel, and hug. For example, if one were reading Little Red Riding Hood, you could have a toy wolf for the child to hold and pat as the story is being read. Sometimes even a scent would trigger a sense of reality for the sight impaired child by having the scent of freshly baked gingerbread compliment the story of the Gingerbread Man.
Tone of voice is often very important to a sight impaired child. Even a hug to say, " I care for you and love you," is very rewarding and meaningful to the sight impaired child.
There are wonderful rewards and benefits for you as a teacher if you ever experience the joy and privilege of having a sight impaired student in your classroom. It can open a whole new world to you, a world which many fully sighted individuals take for granted. Your eyes as a teacher may be opened to things you had never thought of in the past. You undoubtedly would be faced with some challenges and concerns but the positive often outweighs the negative when it comes to mainstreaming sight impaired children.
If you do have the pleasure of having a sight impaired child in your classroom, I am always here and pleased to help you as a teacher to better understand how these children may be thinking and feeling. I experienced it first hand in elementary school and thus can offer hands-on some of the challenges and obstacles I faced but overcame to succeed in the regular classroom environment.
Always remember that you as a teacher have a tremendous gift - the gift to transmit what will shape and determine our world's future. That is a tremendous gift, something which I respect and value very much within the teaching community. It is important to use this gift with great care, thoughtfulness, and wisdom.
You may contact me, Dave Melanson, by e-mail for information about my consulting, sensitization training, and speaking services. Write to email@example.com.
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.