A Successful Start to Preschool: When A Child Is Visually Impaired
Start With What You Know
It is only natural for preschool teachers to feel hesitant upon learning they will have a child with a vision loss in the classroom. There are so many factors that must be taken into consideration - especially the best practices for teaching. A curriculum for a visually impaired preschool child is not readily available, and the teacher will most likely be left wondering, "Where do I begin?"
Experts will tell you that the most logical beginning point is to start with what you already know. Set aside some time for yourself to simply write down information you have:
- about the child
- about their vision loss, and any other disability
- about the family or caregiver
- about your own preschool program
- about how you already cater for children with additional needs
It is also worth addressing some of your own concerns and fears about the situation. It is logical that you will feel some degree of apprehension if this is the first time you have enrolled a child with a vision loss into your program. So address those fears by putting them in writing. Writing down exactly what worries you makes it easier to put strategies in place to counter each concern.
Prepare Your Preschool
Take a walk around your preschool environment and take note of any potential dangers for a child with a vision loss. Think about normal pathways through the preschool and consider how you can ensure these are hazard-free. Think about:
- items that could cause a trip or fall
- items at floor level as well as suspended or on surfaces
- items that move from one session to another
- furniture that could cause a bump or unexpected contact that could frighten a child
As well as thinking about what to remove or alter, consider how to make the preschool a positive and interesting experience. Children with a vision loss need their other senses engaged but not overloaded. Experiences that are tactile or auditory provide an alternative means for exploration and discovery within a safe and predictable environment. You may find a therapist who knows the child well can advise you on this topic and help you orient the child to the preschool environment safely and easily.
Organize a meeting with all the people who have a role to play in the child's life. This could include:
- parents or caregiver
- preschool teacher
- teacher assistants
- other family members if appropriate
- visiting teacher or other agencies that provide care and advice (search your state's website)
- interpreters if appropriate
- advocate if appropriate
Create an agenda for the meeting with a suggested time line and opportunities for each person to speak and be heard. Set goals for the child that are realistic and positive, and are able to be measured and reported on at a later date. Identify any resourcing needs that may exist, such as the need for specialist equipment or additional support person time. See this meeting as a chance to get everyone on the team feeling positive about the start of the preschool experience for the child, and to set up a supportive structure that will work into the future to address any issues when they arise.
By the time you conclude the meeting, hopefully you will be prepared for teaching a visually impaired preschool child this year in a positive, success, focused fashion.