Building your child's confidence and independence at school

If your child has a vision impairment, they may have reduced vision or no vision, so they will need some form of motivation to move. It’s important to encourage them to move early on, through play or through touch, sound, smell or residual vision.

  • For example, you could use a musical toy just out of their reach
  • A favourite person could call to them to come for a cuddle
  • A favourite food treat may encourage them to crawl or reach for it

 

What challenges do children with vision impairment face?

Some of the challenges your child may face can include:

  • Unfamiliar areas
  • Objects without permanent placement
  • Busy or cluttered areas
  • Lighting – with low vision, lighting can present glare, pooling or shadows
  • Learning life skills such as getting dressed and undressed, getting changed for PE, taking their shoes on and off and so on.

A regular, consistent approach at home can help your child to develop these essential skills.

See below for tips and advice on building your child's confidence at school

You can encourage your child to move through everyday activities and promote future learning by using descriptive or informative language, according to their age and the ability of their understanding:

  • For example, you can use language such as up, down, in front, behind, beside etc. as well as left, right, louder, quieter and coming or going away
  • Encouraging them to smell and touch objects may progress to asking them to help you unpack the shopping and guess which item they are touching (and help you to store it)

Your child may receive support from a habilitation specialist and mobility officer at home or at school. After an initial assessment, they will be able to recommend equipment and resources to help your child, which could include a long cane to help with mobility.

Not every child will need support from a mobility officer at home or at school, but your local authority will be able to offer advice.

Equipment which may be used at home or at school to assist them may include things like:

  • Non-slip rubber mats. These are commonly used for a wide range of tasks, for example, they can be used under a plate during meals to prevent it from slipping, or under a tray of toys (for example, bricks or beads) when your child is carrying out an activity at a low table
  • Liquid level indicators for tasks involving liquids, such as pouring a cold drink. This can help encourage independence

Talk to the school staff about how you can work together.

Taking your child into the classroom when it is empty can help to familiarise them with their surroundings. You can explain where things are – for example, the resources wall, the door wall and the story corner.

For children with very low or no vision, you may have to practise this repeatedly until they become familiar with the classroom layout.

  • An environmental audit of the school may be carried out. This may recommend that the school install tactile markings and signage, highlight low level trip hazards, pathways and steps or mark glass doors and panelling clearly, to keep your child safe
  • There are plenty of things that can be put into place at school to help your child feel more confident when moving around. It’s all about changing the environment very subtly to make it more accessible and safe for your child

Light levels may form part of an environmental audit and as every child’s vision impairment is different, the level of light your child needs to see comfortably is specific to them. It is worth talking the school staff about your child’s needs but some general points to consider are:

  • Corridors and busy areas should be well lit
  • Colour contrast is important – for example, a white light switch on a white wall or blue beakers on a blue table are hard to see. If colour contrast is not possible, visual markers can be used, such as coloured sticky tape
  • Some children may need additional task lighting – a little bendy spotlight to provide extra light for specific tasks. Because their vision can fluctuate throughout the day (for example, if they are tired), they may need access to a task light at certain times
  • Some children with vision impairment are light sensitive and will see best when the lights are off and they are wearing dark glasses
  • Lighting needs to be assessed on an individual basis for each child. For example, in a classroom with shiny furniture, a child with vision impairment may experience glare if they sit near the window

Both task and natural lighting can be adjusted to suit your child’s specific needs.

In a classroom, resources should be kept in a permanent place. Things should not be moved around or left in the way.

  • Your child may prefer to sit on the end of a row closest to the doorway
  • Ensuring their coat peg is on the end of a row can help them to find their coat and belongings at break time and after class
  • Tactile markings can also help in the case of severe vision impairment

If you think that they are likely to need support getting to and from school, you can find out what support may be available by visiting your Local Authority’s website and searching for their ‘Local Offer’, and the section marked ‘Transport/Special Educational Needs’.

If your child already has an EHCP in place, you may need an annual review to assess what travel support may be available.

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Published: June 2018

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