University of Edinburgh

Early Years: Working with visually impaired children

Presented on Wednesday 2 December 2009

Curriculum for Excellence

Lorna Hall

Early Years Curriculum for Excellence curriculum areas

Inclusive Environment

  • Building
  • Room
  • Lighting
  • Windows
  • Furniture
  • Outdoor Area

Notes: The environment for Learning should be inclusive. Mobility/visibility audit before the pupil has first session - if possible! Written report on suggestions - taping of edges, floor coverings, table coverings. Review the lighting, blinds, glare. Check if the blinds are in good repair. Some staff lke the room to be dim to keep the children calm!
Wooden surfaces - beech. Many nurseries now are being fitted out thus, with no colour - meant to be calming. Very difficult for VI child.
Specific for your pupil. Ensure that the staff realise that each VI child WILL DIFFER. What they learned for another child at another time may be wrong for this one! Look at changes of surface particularly.


Listening and Talking

I enjoy exploring and choosing stories and other texts to watch, read and listen to, and can share my likes and my dislikes.

"Suitable books"

  • A variety of suitable books.
  • Wide range of tactile books available.
  • Story bags, boxes. Poetry bags.
  • Books should be readily and easily accessible.
  • Discuss suitability using own stock.
  • Suitable books can be marked for staff.
  • Brailled books where appropriate.
  • Tactile markers when not Brailled.

Notes: Library for the Blind. Look at the books the nursery have then mark those suitable for your pupil. You may want to attach some sort of label that the child will recognise a ribbon with a small toy or keyring attached to remind the child which book it is.

Group Storytelling

  • Position child carefully for group sessions.
  • Allow child to have a preview of the book. Individual reading, or access to book as children gather.
  • Allow time for review afterwards. When possible have double copies.
  • VI Child at eye level.
  • Tactile signifier for blind child.

Notes: Consider light from windows and glare from lighting as well as the child's vision, including anything you know about field of vision.
Allow the child to have a look at the book alone or with an adult afterwards.
Very often there will be multiple copies of a favourite story. One nursery I visit has several rooms and one member of staff went around and took a note of where there was another copy of stories they were using for groups.
You know the position - adult on a chair, children on the floor - at the least, the adult's facial expressions will not be seen.
An object mentioned in or connected with the story will help maintain attention.

As I listen and talk in different situations, I am learning to take turns and am developing my awareness of when to talk and when to listen.

Taking Turns to Talk

  • Difficulties caused by inability to see various signals given by staff and other children.
  • Give explanation at the beginning of each session.
  • Child near to staff member for quiet prompts.
  • Name VI pupil when addressing them.
  • Give opportunities for VI child to join in.
  • Regular encouragement to keep listening by involving, however briefly.

Notes: Can't see the hands raised.
Don't see the child jumping up and down in front of the staff member.
Doesn't see the eye signals saying "you're next!"
Play games to encourage listening skills, including sound discrimination.


I explore sounds, letters and words, discovering how they work together, and I can use what I learn to help me as I read and write.

Appropriate Format

  • Appropriately sized photographs
  • Name cards for all in appropriate format.
  • Pictures on name cards.
  • Matt laminates and photo paper
  • Brailled labels.
  • Suitable display height
  • Variety of letter formats

Notes: Check picture recognition. When photographs are used to plan and review activities, ensure they are appropriately sized for the VI child.
Assess colour vision.
Avoid glare - children may be viewing from up to a metre away, therefore use matt laminates.
Braille Dymo Labeller is ideal as the adult using it does not need to know Braille.
Review the height of wall displays.
Sandpaper, plastic, foam, cushion, magnetic ,any other ideas?


As I play and learn, I enjoy exploring interesting materials for writing and different ways of recording experiences and feelings, ideas and information.

  • Variety of materials for the VI child.
  • Good lighting, including use of task lighting.
  • Sloping board available for all.
  • Tactile writing boards.
  • Brailler available for all.

Notes: Usually pens, including felt tips are available, giving good contrast, but discuss with staff anyway. There is a huge range of pens - fluorescent, smelly, gel etc. NOT WAX CRAYONS
Discuss contrast with staff, including the use of coloured paper. 3.
All the children will enjoy and benefit from the tactile boards.
Braillers are very attractive to all children and there has to be an introduction.


I have explored numbers, understanding that they represent quantities and I can use them to count, create sequences and describe order.


  • A size appropriate to child's vision.
  • Good contrast with background.
  • Use tray to confine materials.
  • Alternate colours.
  • Vary the materials regularly.

Size & Estimation

I am developing a sense of size and amount by observing, exploring using and communicating with others about things in the world around me.

  • More physical and practical than visual.
  • Relate to child's experiences.
  • Where possible use real life sizes, rather than miniatures.


I am developing my awareness of how money is used and can recognise and use a range of coins.

  • Use real coins
  • contrasting surface
  • a surface with depth

Notes: Wooden tables very poor.
Carpet tile or towel.

Expressive Arts Art & Design

I have the freedom to discover and choose ways to create images and objects using a variety of materials.

  • Contrast & Clarity
  • High visibility products
  • Tactile preferences
  • Review regularly

Notes: Discuss containers
Coloured glue
Textured paint, eg; sand
Table coverings
Background papers
Coloured water for water activities necessary, not just for fun!
Review as vision also changes. Some VI children have a dislike of messy materials and this has to be addressed carefully. Others may be tactile defensive.

I can create a range of visual information through observing and recording from my experiences across the curriculum.

  • Individual format if necessary.
  • Audio recording.
  • Use of 'Big Mack' etc.
  • 'Story' bags

Notes: Big books used to record in handwriting and photographs. If necessary, VI child's book may be a different format perhaps using audio tape. Recordable photo albums A box or bag with tactile items to be used in discussion for child with additional needs.


Planet Earth

I have observed living things in the environment over time and am becoming aware of how they depend on each other.

  • Magnifiers of all types.
  • Hands on experience difficult.
  • Experience the size!
  • Discuss the obvious.
  • Allow extra time

Notes: There are toy magnifiers, but a variety of normal ones is usually available, including insect tubes etc.
On DVD - video microscope in one nursery.
Laying out the size of the tyrannosaurus rex using paper plates!
Should be available at all times to all children. Thomas and the 4 legged sheep.


ICT to enhance learning

I explore software and use what I learn to solve problems and present my ideas, thoughts or information.

  • Early introduction to an important feature in the child's future in education.
  • Review software in use for suitability.
  • Specific software for the VI pupil
  • Review accessibility.
  • Review position of screen.
  • Ask for an ICT assessment.

Notes: Computers, touch screens, Wii and Smart boards in most nurseries now. There may also be an individual piece of equipment for your child, such as a switch to operate toys, or a communication aid of some kind, starting from something as simple as a Big Mack. There are also talking cans.
There may be software in use for a specific purpose for the VI pupil, eg; Vision stimulation, visual perception skills. There may be no suitable software in the establishment, eg; Switch It programmes.
Some screens very high, with keyboard preventing the child getting close enough, particularly if the child is in a wheelchair. Adjustable height tables are available.
Accessibility can change the size of the cursor, leave a trail behind the cursor, show where the cursor is, control the speed of the mouse.
Contrast level, background colour.
Any of these will help a VI child to play even the simplest games. Small mice available, also single click mouse. Inclusive Technology is the firm to look at.

Working with Visually Impaired Children

Review regularly