University of Edinburgh

Early Years: Working with visually impaired children

Presented on Wednesday 2 December 2009

Janis Sugden

Birth to five years

  • crucial for their development.
    All children develop at their own pace
  • However, young children with sight problems may need you to help them make sense of the world around them to awaken their interest in people, toys and objects.

Notes: All children develop at their own pace whether they are sighted or not.

Important aspects of development

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication, language and literacy
  • Children learn language, ways to think about things, and different methods of communicating with other people. How?

How do young children learn?

  • All children's learning and competence in communicating, speaking and listening, being read to and beginning to read and write must be supported.
  • They must be provided with opportunity and encouragement to use their skills in a range of situations and for a range of purposes, and be supported in developing the confidence and disposition to do so.

What does this mean for Visually Impaired children?

"Show me what my friends can see"

A Developmental guide for parents of babies with severely impaired sight and professional advisors.
Patricia Sonksen and Blanche Stiff
ISBN: 095175261818

Notes: This book is the result of study by a multidisciplinary team into the constraints caused by poor vision on a wide range of early developmental sequences and strategies to counter these. Visual development was found to be sub-optimal in many babies, so strategies to promote visual development were also devised and evaluated.

The book is primarily for parents but also for professionals working with families with a baby or young child with visual impairment.

"Show me what my friends can see" has 4 main sections:

  • To promote many visual aspects of development
  • To promote visual development
  • Use of available vision
  • Children with additional/multiple disabilities.

"Play it my way"

  • Learning through play with your visually impaired child
  • Contains a wealth of ideas for parents bringing up a child with a sight problem. The activities suggested are easy to carry out at home. A valuable resource that is based on day-to-day routines to help children find out about the world. Author: RNIB 2001 ISBN: 0117016764

Learning About Self

  • Developing
  • Self-awareness
  • self-image 

Partnership Activities

  • Encourage parents to handle/ touch the child
  • Encourage active looking

Children Learn through Play

Notes: Play provides the opportunity to try out new ideas, to develop patience, to find out about surroundings and to build relationships with other people. The sighted child learns top create, build towers, make models out of junk, to use their imagination. See Page 108 of Play it My way.

Multi-disabled Children

Need to work with others. Therefore need to know about

  • typical child development
  • curriculum
  • individual children's development and interests
  • systematic recording procedures
  • collaborative working
  • imaginative use of available resources

Inter-agency cooperation

Those with additional support needs comprise a broad group of children and young people whose needs require to be identified,understood and addressed. Education authorities need to play their part in ensuring that there is effective communication, collaboration and integrated assessment and provision when other agencies are involved. For example, where a child or young person is looked after and accommodated, there will already be involvement from social work and health staff as well as possibly, voluntary agency staff. Similarly, where children are within the Children's Hearing System, or need to be protected from harm, the relevant agencies must work together to ensure an integrated assessment of all of the child's or young person's needs.

Coordinated Support Plan

What are the criteria?

  • one or more complex factors, or multiple factors,
  • those needs are likely to continue for more than a year, and
  • those needs require significant additional support to be provided-
  • by the education authority in the exercise of any of their other functions as well as in the exercise of their functions relating to education, or
  • by one or more appropriate agencies (within the meaning of section 23(2)) as well as by the education authority themselves.

Partnership Activities

  • To encourage Communication.
  • Developmental ideas
  • Communication Systems.