By: Carmen Willings
Updated October 28, 2017
Students who are blind or visually impaired will typically need adaptations to access printed information throughout the language arts program. Literacy and reading skills are foundational skills that will allow the student to access all areas of the curriculum. It is the role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) to determine the student's primary reading mode. Although the student should develop strong auditory skills, it is essential for the student to learn to read print and/or braille.
Students with low vision will typically use printed materials. Some students may be able to read print without any adaptations but the majority of students with low vision will require large print or magnification devices in order to comfortably read print for short and sustained reading activities. For students who need large print, magnification devices should be considered as they allow a student to access all printed information so they are not dependent on what has been enlarged for them.
Speed and Stamina
Many students with low vision will read at a slower speed than their sighted peers and have less stamina for reading longer passages. Although teachers may be inclined to reduce the amount of reading and have the student read for shorter periods, this strategy does not help develop greater speed and stamina. Alan J. Koenig and Evelyn J. Rex discuss this very issue in the Foundations of Low Vision chapter on Instruction of Literacy Skills to Children and Youths with Low Vision. They recommend encouraging the student to read extensively to increase speed and stamina. Recommendations are similar to those with students who are sighted. They include repeated readings, paired reading, choral reading and echo reading. With that being said, it continues to be important to teach the student to recognize signs of visual fatigue and learn strategies for dealing with it (ex. take short breaks, change from reading a text to listening to a recording of the text, or changing position)
Conducting a reading inventory as part of the student's Reading Media Assessment, such as the Jerry John's, will help to identify the students reading rate and the student's level of independent reading, instructional reading level and the student's frustration level.
If a student is a braille reader, they will need significant support in the production of materials in braille. The TVI or braillist will need plenty of advance notice on worksheets and other activities and information that needs to be produced in braille. Braille books should be available for the student at home as frequent reading experience is critical for success and good braille reading skills. The TVI will collaborate with the classroom teacher, the student and the parents to ensure the student has braille materials available at home. Parents should be encouraged to be involved in fostering children's interest and love of literacy and books. Parents with students who are future or current braille readers will typically need assistance in locating books and materials in braille.
Environmental Exposure to Braille
The goal for the braille learner is to recognize braille or other tactile symbols as easily as sighted people read print. Early exposure to print/braille is important. Students should be exposed to a wide variety of print/braille in books and in the environment. Future braille readers or possible braille candidates MUST have daily exposure to braille in a literacy rich environment that is fully accessible. This daily exposure (at school and at home) will help students make the connection between what is written and the spoken word. Provide students with opportunities to read class schedules, daily messages, cassette tape labels, recipes, menus, and notes from teachers. Also provide opportunities to read transcriptions of classmates’ writing, and a wide variety of children’s books transcribed into braille. Incorporate braille on: bulletin boards; braille names on desks, cubbies and lockers; classroom signs, rules and posters; and calendars.
Literacy Rich Environment
Find functional uses for braille, such as labeling personal belongings (lockers, notebooks, CDs, and so forth), recording telephone numbers, and writing homework assignments or shopping lists. For those less familiar with braille, a braille labeler can be used to make braille labels, although it can only produce uncontracted braille. Braille clothing labels can provide daily exposure to braille as well. Model the use of braille (as when reading aloud to the student) and use braille for sending messages and other functional purposes.
Shared reading provides an opportunity for the student to participate in reading with a reader that reads with fluency and expression. When you are reading together with a student who is learning braille, be sure that the student's fingers are in contact with the braille as you read. Encourage the student to use a light touch ("Smooshing" the braille will make it unreadable!) and not to "scrub" the braille. Also, encourage the student to smoothly "track" along the lines with the pads of the fingers on both hands from left to right as you read. In the beginning, it is not necessary for the student's fingers to be on the same words as you are reading - this will come later with more formal instruction. As the student gets older and more experienced with books, you may want to read only when they are tracking. This way the student will begin to understand that to read braille, you must keep your hands moving! After a shared reading experience, the student should be encouraged to re-read the story independently either silently or aloud.
Rogow, Sally. Language, Literacy and Children with Special Needs. Pippin Publishing, 1997. This book focuses on the importance of supporting students with special needs so they can participate and be integrated into the educational mainstream. Rogow outlines a variety of approaches that will help teachers ensure that learning happens for everyone.
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TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC: An Activities Based Curriculum for Teaching Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired
Written specifically for fellow itinerant Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI’s), this book consists of over 400 activities and topic areas of discussion for instructing students in the Expanded Core Curriculum. The activities are age-neutral and multi-sensory and therefore can meet the needs of the broad range of students served on an itinerant caseload serving. The activities can be individualized to the students various learning modalities and scaffold in order to challenge students but ensure success. Select those activities that align with the student’s learning objects based on the student’s unique visual needs and academic and developmental level.
The core activities listed in the Activity section can be adapted to each thematic unit. These include:
In addition to the core activity areas, each of the 32 Thematic Units incorporates additional unique ECC concepts and skills providing you with a years’ worth of activities. These units are cyclical and can be used repeatedly to help students build on prior knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of concepts. Each unit includes suggestions for activity adaptation associated with the unit. These include lists of objects, possible community based experiences, environmental print, poems, children & young reader books, children's songs, pop culture songs, movies, and websites.
Unique Concepts within the Units include:
Although the intended audience of this resource is fellow Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments, special education teachers may find these activities beneficial to the students in their classrooms as the activities are multisensory and include life skills and concepts needed by all students. This resource, however, is not intended to take the place of a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). Readers are advised to consult their own TVI’s regarding instruction in the ECC and the unique visual needs of the student’s served in their programs.
Note: This curriculum is a digital pdf download. Once you make your purchase you will be directed to an order confirmation page where you will find the download link. This download will also be included on the receipt sent to the email address you provide. The pdf download can be found directly under the order number.
Each download is intended for single instructor use per copyright. Thank you for helping me preserve the content and not distributing copies to third parties.
Digital pdf download: 364 pages (11 pt font)
Publisher: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
Author: Carmen Willings
Visual Efficiency & Magnifier Fluency Grab & Go ECC Supplements
This workbook is a pdf download that can be printed on demand for use with students. It contains five different types of worksheets for developing visual motor skills and near magnifier fluency skills particularly with the use of a video magnifier. As a supplement to the TVI’s Guide to the ECC, the worksheets correspond to each of the 32 ECC Thematic units. The worksheets, along with a list of environmental print for each thematic unit, are designed to help students refine their visual motor skills while reinforcing ECC concepts presented in the thematic units.
Visual Efficiency & Near Magnifier Fluency Worksheet Details:
Digital pdf download: 210 pages
Publisher: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
Author: Carmen Willings