Impact on Development & Learning
By: Carmen Willings
Revised August 27, 2017
When a visual impairment is present from birth (congenital) it will have a more significant impact on development and learning that if the visual impairment is acquired later in life (adventitious). Loss of vision can affect all areas of development. Social development is affected as children are not able to pick up on non-verbal clues or if they are unable to make eye contact they may appear disinterested and can reduce sustained social interactions. Loss of vision impacts motor development as a child may not be motivated to move toward that which can't be seen or causes inhibition to move for fear of the unknown. Exploration of the environment and materials is critical in cognitive development, therefore movement is important not only for motor development but for the development of concepts.
Language acquisition can also be affected by the loss of vision as active interaction with people and the environment is important in language development. Delays in the area of independence in activities of daily living are impacted as incidental learning through observation is not possible for those with significant visual impairments. This impact can be magnified when caregivers, in an effort to help or to rush through activities, complete tasks for the child which creates learned helplessness in the child.
Berthold Lowenfeld, a psychologist, researcher, and advocate for the blind hypothesized that blindness imposes 3 basic limitations on a person (often referred to as Lowenfeld Losses):
1. Loss of range and variety of experiences
2. Loss of the ability to get around
3. Loss of the control of the environment and the self in relation to it.
Because of these restrictions, the individual relates to and learns about the world through the remaining senses, particularly hearing and touch. Lowenfeld stated that "A great many experiences which are taken for granted with seeing children are either impossible or much more difficult for blind children." Lowenfeld found that students with visual impairments required special experiences to help them make sense of what they were learning. Teachers need to make sure these are minimized through training and skills through active exploration with concrete materials. Read More about Berthold Lowenfeld at APH's Hall of Fame.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology. It is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top. Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow's hierarchy can be used to solve problems presented by the loss of vision.
If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life."
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