Visually Attend & Scan Activities
By: Carmen Willings
Updated June 9, 2019
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments can work with a student to help them develop efficient use of their vision for visually attending to their environment, shifting their gaze between materials presented and visual pursuit of objects and people. These skills fundamental and lay the foundation for all other vision skills.
Visually attend to things that light-up
If a student is not demonstrating the ability to visually attend, start with encouraging them to visually attend to lights. There are many commercially available light up toys. Most of these toys also have a sound. This may help a student orient toward the toy but it can also be a distraction as some students can't look and listen at the same time. At some point, you will want the student to be able to attend without the assistance of a sound. For this reason, find toys that allow the sound to be turned off or select toys and materials that light up without making a sound. Possible materials that light up include Christmas lights, light up toys, disco balls, bubble lamps, lava lamps, rope lights, iPods, iPads, computers, television, etc.
Visually attend to Reflective (Shiny) Materials
Once the student is able to visually attend to lights, the next step is to encourage the student to attend to reflective materials. Provide reflective materials such as Mylar balloons, metallic pinwheels, Mardi Gras beads, silverware, emergency blankets, and metallic pompoms. If the student is able to visually attend to reflective materials, encourage them to attend to colorful objects but avoid materials that are visually cluttered.
Visually attend to things that move
Point out the actions of others and encourage the student to visually attend and comment on the actions. Encourage the student to visually attend to fountains, fish tanks, raindrops on windows, water table activities, spinners, wind chimes, windsocks, balloons, birds at windowsill feeder, snow falling, bubbles
Visually attend to pictures
Encourage the student to visually attend to and explore photo albums, yearbooks, picture books, menus, ads/flyers, catalogs, comic books, magazines, iPods, iPads, etc. Select books and pictures that are free of visual clutter and have simple pictures. Students are typically able to identify simple photos against a solid high contrast color.
Encourage students to visually scan through these activities: I-spy games, find it games, play hide and seek with a toy/object but only partially hide it to encourage visual search and scan skills; place theme-related materials around the room and encourage student to visually scan to locate them; scatter puzzles pieces or pieces to a matching game around the tabletop area and encourage the student to visually scan to locate the needed piece.
Shift their gaze from one near object to another near object
A natural time to work on this skill is when presenting the student with a choice. Present the student with two or three choices and encourage them to look at each item prior to making a choice. For students with multiple disabilities, this is a very important skill to encourage as it will be necessary for using many communication devices or responding to yes/no cards.
Visually examine and explore the environment, looking from one object to another
Shift gaze and focus from a near object to a far object and from a far object to a near object. This skill can be naturally addressed during circle time or group time. The student can be encouraged to shift their gaze between a book or object that is presented and the teacher or a peer.
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