Learn to Play
By: Carmen Willings
Updated October 30, 2017
Many students with visual impairments will need to be taught how to interact and participate in activities. You may have to teach the student how to explore toys & materials. As stated in Guiding Principles, students who are blind or visually impaired need many opportunities to play with real objects. That doesn't mean that you will not want to provide the student with toys. In selecting toys, you do need to choose toys that meet the students learning needs. If the student has low vision and is distracted by visual clutter, you will want to select toys that are simple and have bold colors. If the student will only visually attend to a certain characteristic (red, or metallic), obviously you should look for toys with these features. For a student with minimal or no vision, you will want to look for toys that are tactually interesting. As you explore toys in the toy aisles, close your eyes and feel the toys. Does it just feel like a lump of hard plastic or does it have tactually interesting features that will encourage exploration and interest?
Introduce new materials and activities intentionally and provide the student with plenty of time to explore them. When you present materials to the student, provide the student with a verbal prompt and understand that you may need to guide the student’s hand to explore the toys. Show the student how to explore the details of materials and objects. Provide the names of the objects he is exploring and a description of what it is used for.
Although random exploration provides lots of information for the student, intentional teaching can help the student learn scanning skills to look for and piece together features. It helps to sit behind the student and help guide their hands in a systematic search pattern. Show the student that you are paying attention to the activity that he is engaged in by talking about it, or helping him visually and/or tactually explore it (but not taking over). Be sure to monitor your talking and verbal descriptions as talking can distract the student and interrupt their exploration and visual attention toward materials.
Playing Alongside or Cooperatively
Students may need extra time to familiarize themselves with other student’s style of playing. The quick, unpredictable movements of other students can be disorienting, perhaps even frightening at times for students. It takes time for some students to gain the skills and the confidence they need to enjoy playing with other students.
The following companies publish catalogs of toys, many of which are appropriate for use with infants and young children who are blind or have low vision. In some cases, you will be able to discover comparable toys in a local discount store at significant savings.
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