University of Edinburgh

Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Friendships for Children and Young People with a Visual Impairment

Presented on 1 November 2013

Dr João Roe, Head of Sensory Support Service, Bristol.

Social Emotional Well-being and Friendships - Scenarios

Early Years

Scenario 1

Alice is 9 months old and has a severe visual impairment. Her mum reports that she does not seem interested in playing. She also does not show much interest in being held by a caregiver. Alice requires some medical treatment which mum takes responsibility for. Mum finds these treatments a stressful and not very positive time. She is concerned that her interactions with her daughter are due to everyday care and medical treatments. She feels that she does not get much positive feedback when attempting to engage her daughter in play.

Discussion: Limited positive feedback during interaction with mum which can limit further social interaction. There could be emotional issues, mum still coming to terms with child's needs and having to carry out treatments which make her feel she is causing discomfort and pain to her child. Need to develop play and more active exploration of the world to promote learning.

Scenario 2

Callum is 3 years old and is educationally blind. His parents are very keen to stimulate his play and social interaction with other children. He is their first child and they find that he is not showing much interest in playing with others; rather he tends to interact with adults. He is attending a nursery class and has support from an adult.

Discussion: Many children with VI tend to interact with adults as often adults are more able to adapt to the child's needs and provide extra language input that help the child make sense of what is happening. Adults need to have a good understanding of the child's needs and how to promote/expand play with their peers - encouraging, mediating, standing back and observing. Peers may also need support to understand the child and how to interact with him - modelling interaction, etc.

Scenario 3

Sadif is a 3 1/2 year old boy who is blind with some light perception. He attends a nursery and will join in at group time but his language is limited. He tends to rock backwards and forwards and pushes away children if they get close to him. He gets frightened by sudden noises and at times he screams or makes noises that interrupt activities being carried out by other children. He prefers to be on his own exploring toys and is resistant to adult directed activities.

Discussion: Limited social interaction and language. Consider whether the environment is overwhelming or whether he needs some more stimulation. Is he resistant to ADR directed activities at home as well?

Primary School

Scenario 1

Rachel is a 5 year-old severely visually impaired child attending a mainstream reception class. Her teaching assistant supported her in nursery and she understands Rachel very well. Because of this she does a lot for the child and feels her role is to support her at all times, ensuring she is safe and happy at school. Many activities planned for the class are not accessible to Rachel and the teaching assistant develops other activities for Rachel. Most interactions that Rachel establishes are with or through her teaching assistant.

Discussion: Class teacher not taking responsibility, limited opportunities for inclusion, reduced opportunities to learn from interaction with peers (access to role models). Learned dependency. Need to raise awareness of class teacher and TA through training, clarifying roles and responsibilities of different professionals, develop understanding regarding the need to develop social skills and independence.

Scenario 2

Sam is 8 years old and severely visually impaired. He has been a popular boy in his class but recently he has been more withdrawn at play time. His friends join him for a while but they are very keen in playing football and although Sam used to enjoy playing some ball games these are now too fast and rough for Sam.

Discussion: As children grow they may engage in faster and rougher physical games which may be hard for a child with VI to access. The peer culture gap may become wider. This is also true for access to electronic games, etc, understanding what the child would like to access and considering identifying some areas for quieter play or where physical skills can be practised in safety. Use coloured vests to identify children during physical games.

Scenario 3

Clare is 5 years old and has a severe visual impairment. She is liked by peers and enjoys playing in the home corner. However, she tends to control her peers, she decides what happens next, what her friends should do, etc. Her peers try to express their views but Clare often does not listen to them. They do not like this and often move away. Clare ends up playing on her own.

Discussion: Child controlling activity and not listening/understanding others' point of view. Children with VI may tend to control activities as a way of understanding what is happening around them. Developing her peers' awareness of her needs so that communication is improved. Consider some small group activities to model social interaction.

Secondary School

Scenario 1

Sarah is 13 years old and she attends a local mainstream school. She is severely visually impaired and is finding difficult to make friends. This is not because of lack of trying. She often approaches groups of other girls and tries to join in but is often unsuccessful. The teaching assistant has observed her during break time and would like to know more about what she could do to help Sarah joining in and develop friendships.

Discussion: Need to develop social skills to be able to join in successfully, identify common interests with peers, develop Sarah's awareness of non verbal behaviours and social conventions. Possibly establishing circle of friends and give opportunities to discuss social skills in small group.

Scenario 2

Seneka is a 12 year-old boy who is partially sighted. His transfer to secondary school seemed to be going ok but recently he has been more isolated and showing signs of low self esteem. He is now saying that he does not want to go to school and his teaching assistant is concerned that he is being bullied.

Discussion: Possibly low self esteem and bullying. Talking to pupil and listening to his voice. Consider whether he would prefer to speak to someone else rather than those who are close to him and support him on an everyday basis. Liaise with home - is there something else going on which may caused this change. Informal observation/monitoring, eg, in corridors, break time etc to identify any potential issues.

Scenario 3

Erica is 14 years old and has a severe visual impairment. She has been a popular pupil but recently has been withdrawn. She loses her friends as she has to leave a bit earlier to move between rooms and has stopped attempting to find them again. Her usual friends are now meeting up at weekends but her parents do not allow her out on her own as they feel that it is not safe.

Discussion: Explore other alternatives, eg having a friend with her when moving between rooms. Liaise with home - parents' views on her becoming more independent and joining friends outside school. Explore level of independence skills and liaise with mobility officer to ensure appropriate development of independence skills and reduced isolation.