Inclusion means that children who once had to go to schools specifically designed to meet there needs are now being mainstreamed into regular classrooms throughout the country. This means that legally blind children are now included into the mainstream too, by law.
Including children who are labelled as disabled, or impaired in any way, into regular classrooms will hopefully help to create less disabled adults for the future. When society finally begins to feel comfortable with the diversify disabilities bring, we will be more likely to adapt our communities into more friendly places for the disabled to live and work within, effectively.
When I taught preschool children with special needs, all of my students were disabled in some way, but I only had one blind child in the midst of handicapped children who were able to see very clearly. With that time in my career in mind, I believe my experience will help any preschool teacher assist a blind child to adapt to and feel comfortable leaning in the same room with sighted children.
My experience took me beyond teaching the blind child that year because years later, I too became legally blind. It happened over night and no one could tell me why. Still, it left me remembering Mario, the only blind child who motivated me to even imagine what it’s like to be blind.
A view of the preschool classroom through the eyes of a blind child
If you are blessed with the opportunity to teach a blind child, take a look at your classroom through his eyes instead of through your teacher’s eyes.
Is the room organized?
You’ll need to become more of a neat freak and less of a mess. A disorganized classroom is a nightmare to a child who is blind. It can create insecurities when a child never knows where anything is. He needs to be able to find those things he needs to learn with, so keep your room orderly with structure and your routine in mind. This will not only help the blind child, “see more clearly,” how your class is run, but it will also be easier to use for everyone.
Is there too much stuff?
If you’re like most teachers, you’ve acquired a lot of teaching materials that end up here and there, so you’ll need to simplify things for the blind child who will be overwhelmed by too much stuff everywhere. Put everything you don’t need away and only have out what you need for that day. This keeps it simpler for all, including you.
Can the blind child find his cubby where he puts his belongings?
If you’ve got a space for the children to store their coats and backpacks, make sure you’ve prepared for the child who is blind and can’t see where his name is neatly printed on his cubby. Make his name tactile by outlining it with glue and pouring sand on it to dry so that he can feel his name. Use this method to label other things in the room as well, even if he can’t read or spell. You can use braille to help him learn to recognize words, but you could also use symbols to represent areas in the room. For example, you could use a square for the bathroom and a triangle for his chair. Use your ingenuity to help him see where he’s supposed to be.
Your modified lessons and instruction
The fist thing you’ll need to do is to contact the parent and the schools vision specialist. Ask for ideas on how to modify your lesson plan to adapt for the blind child. They can give you valuable tips, but in the mean time, I have a few too.
Have the blind child sit next to you during group time, so that he can feel your face as you speak. This will take some getting use to, but it’s important for him to feel your expressions and to bond with you too.
Remember that the blind child can’t see your body language to know when you are happy, sad or maybe just a bit mad. You’ll need to keep this in mind so that you don’t make the mistake of giving, “stern looks,” to say what’s on your mind.
Don’t scream at the blind child. Remember that his inability to see does not affect his hearing. Too many people make the mistake of raising their voices around blind people. It’s a human mistake, but it can scare a blind child sometimes, so be careful to speak clearly without screaming.
Use auditory books for quiet time in the room, so that when the other children are looking at books, he can listen to them and build his auditory comprehension. You’ll also need to find audio tapes of common sounds, so he’ll learn to recognize animals, people and sounds around town. Have him listen to the sound and tell you what it is. Do this when you go on field trips too by asking him, “What do you hear?” Chances are he will hear that airplane in the sky long before you ever see it pass by. Teach him how different emotions sound as well.
Be proactive. If you decide to rearrange the room, tell your blind student before you do. If your routine is changing, prepare him for the change ahead of time to avoid anxiety.
How to keep the mainstreamed blind child safe
The best way is to use the advice above and be organized at all times. You’ll need to be more aware of his play time activities to avoid those obstacles that get in the way of people who can’t see. Be proactive on any outing and designate a guide at all times, and preferably an adult guide.
If he has a walking cane for the visually impaired, insist that he use it when he’s moving around anywhere. It will be good practice for him to use it up and down the halls at school, and the proper use should be taught to you first! The cane will assist him in discovering objects in his way, before his body gets there.
How to assist a blind child in relating to those who can see clearly
Explain to the class early on that they have a new friend who doesn’t see things like them. Try in the best way you can to preschool age children, what it’s like to be blind and I have an idea in mind.
Have all the students put blindfolds on and tell them, “That’s what being blind looks like.” Soon, the children will begin to see what being blind means, and they will adapt their way of doing things when their new blind friend is with them, just wait and see.
Children are amazing human beings, and I’m sure that Mario adjusted much easier than I did years later, but I am so grateful for the opportunity he gave me to see through the blinds eyes more clearly. I suppose you could say that by losing my sight, I gained more vision about how to teach those who are blind.