By: Carmen Willings
Social bonds between children who are blind or visually impaired and their caregivers can be affected when there is lack of eye contact, possible lack of smiling, and frequent passivity or constant tactual exploration in less than ideal locations.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
Providing students with fading assistance in social circumstances is key. Talking with the student about who is involved, what they are doing and why can help the student understand the social context. Although it may be difficult to provide, students need honest and sensitive feedback about their behavior and the impact it may have on social interactions. You can then talk with the student about how they can make judgments about how to change their behavior.
Students must learn to communicate effectively with different people. They must also learn to accept and respond appropriately to suggestions and corrections (ex. show respect for their teachers and others in leadership positions). The strategies identified here may help the student develop appropriate and positive social skills. Help a student learn appropriate social skills by encouraging the student to:
Adult Interaction Tips
Students need to learn respect adults and to interact and respond to them differently than they would to a peer. Help the student have positive interactions with adults by encouraging them to:
Peer Interaction Tips
It is important for students to learn how to interact appropriately with their peers. The following are strategies to use in order to help the student develop positive peer interactions:
Students who are blind or visually impaired may not be aware of conventional courteous behaviors as they may be unable to visually observe them. For this reason, students will need to pay extra attention to environmental cues in order to know how to act in various situations. Modeling and practicing the behaviors including greetings, farewells and introductions in comfortable, familiar settings, will help the student in use the skill in new environments.
In order to help the student develop courteous social behaviors by encouraging them to:
Students need to be able to make telephone calls, use a phone directory, take written telephone messages, remember phone messages, and use a pay phone. Instruct students directly in these areas and also provide opportunities for students to practice the skills naturally throughout the day and embedded in the units.
Getting to Know You: A Social Skills and Ability Awareness Curriculum, available from APH, is a social skills/awareness curriculum for grades K-12 in which students who are blind or visually impaired interact and get to know each other. It provides tools to interact and play effectively, develop and maintain friendships, interpret non-verbal cues, and successfully seek and maintain employment and independent living opportunities as adults.