by Guest blogger Annabelle Fees
Students with visual and learning impairments require additional considerations that we might take for granted in our classrooms. These include teacher awareness, pre-planning, time on task, seating placement, board presentation materials, peer mentoring and effective reading accommodations, like Learning Ally.
In this blog, we discuss commonplace considerations that remind us of the tiny ways that we can make a big difference. If you find some great takeaways, please share it with another teacher, principal or administrator or in your school newsletter.
Are all staff members aware of a student’s visual impairment? We might take this fact for granted especially in large schools, and if a student has low vision and struggles to read fine print. Even if a teacher is not directly involved with the student, they will want to know about that student’s needs. As importantly, encourage student to discuss their learning or reading challenges, especially if they experience tired eyes or constant fatigue.
Pre-Planning and Time on Task
Students with visual and learning differences may require a little extra notice of a required presentation so pre-planning is critical to their success. If a student understands they will be tasked in the semester with a demonstration for example in biology tuition, they can prepare mindfully for a successful presentation. Students with print disabilities do not want to look any different than their peers. Make sure the student knows where he/she will give the demonstration and provide a favorable position in the classroom to stand or sit. An unexpected need to relocate a student may cause the student unnecessary stress, anxiety or embarrassment.
Students also appreciate classroom seating. Do they have plenty of space to move around? Is the lighting favorable and consistent throughout the day? Are your students facing away from windows to reduce glare? Do they have extra storage for their assistive technology devices? What about glare from overhead projectors? These issues may be less important for some students and very important for others. Doing this in a quiet and confidential manner will help them feel less pressure and fully supported in their classroom learning journey.
Do you give students with visual disabilities copies of board presentations prior to the start of class? This can be an important second point of reference if they are struggling to see the board clearly and helps to recap information they missed, like an important fact or statistic.
You may also need to format board presentations in large print with extra white space. Do you take extra care in articulating words and emphasizing where you are in the presentation timeline? Consider drawings and writing on boards in a contrasting color. Use a black pen on a whiteboard or white chalk on a blackboard and avoid pale colors that may not be legible.
Time on Task
Students with visual impairments may require extra time on task and study breaks. For hands-on demonstrations, invite a student to handle the materials before and after a learning session.
Peer / Mentoring
In today’s school environment, it is more important than ever to provide students with peers or mentors to be a champion advocate for them so that they will feel accepted and appreciated for who they are. Statistics show that students with disabilities are often bullied, misunderstood, or stereotyped as poor or lazy learners – rarely the case. For these students, social isolation is common and we must do everything we can to address this issue.
Reading Accommodations – Level the Learning Field
Lastly, we want to mention a critical component for all students with visual and learning disabilities to be successful learners -- an effective reading accommodation like Learning Ally. Access to digital materials is paramount for these students. Learning Ally provides access to more than 80K human-read audiobooks, including K12 textbooks, literature and popular required reading for all ages. Why not, attend one of the upcoming webinars or join the Learning Ally community.
In summary, everyone loves a great teacher …one that is clear, concise and considerate to all students’ needs. One who makes us feel special, normal and successful. Applying these considerations will ensure that more students with visual and learning disabilities believe that they can be great achievers and conquer the world.
About this Author
Student author Annabelle is part of the Content and Community team at SmileTutor, sharing valuable content to their own community and beyond. Annabelle’s passion is connecting parents & children who are looking for English tutors in Singapore.