As you may know, my son J has a visual impairment. During the first few years of his life, I spent so many hours trying to find activities to do with him and then worrying about how to present them in a way that would be of benefit (or more importantly, of interest) to him. So many pre-school toys work on a visually stimulating basis - I still remember a childminder friend of mine looking after him for a few hours and commenting on how this made her feel.
One other issue we had was when his VI Play Therapist came along and let us try several products specifically for VI children but then due to their lack of resources, she often had to take them away with her, and the cost of many of these are so extortionate that they are beyond most households. Yes, grants are available if you know where to look but usually at the time you need the products, you are snowed under with appointments, exhausted and still trying to learn a whole new world.
So, I am delighted to introduce our guest post from Gwyneth McCormack of Positive Eye. Positive Eye delivers practical, resource rich courses and training across the UK and Europe to practitioners on how to meet the educational needs of children and young people with visual impairment.with some lovely cheap ideas for parents of VI children to try at home.
Supporting learning and development of children with Visual Impairment is an ongoing daily part of support offered by both parents and practitioners. Children with VI need to understand the world via a concrete, sensory approach to support their knowledge of form, shape, size, texture, colour and process. Like all other children learning is more likely to be maximised when it is fun! We can do this using simple, inexpensive resources and whenever possible using the real object. Expensive toys and resources are not always necessary and often the real object and a creative approach fulfil the role perfectly.
In a recent hunt around IKEA, I was looking for inspiration and ideas. I scanned the aisles looking for items I could adapt and develop into fun learning resources. I came across the scarf hanger. This resource has so many fun, creative uses and I was very excited to find it, I bought three to show different ways it could be used.
Here I am going to share three of those ideas, but there are others. The list is endless when you start thinking and brainstorming.
The scarf hanger is made of 28 rings linked together in 4 rows of 7 rings. It makes a great tactile pattern game, a number line, a resource to teach co-ordinates, a mobile for shiny visual objects, a concept hanger to which can be added different items.
The hanger costs £4.50 fromIKEA. The hanger has a coat hanger at the top making it is easy to hang on the wall. Here are photographs of three ideas for using the hanger
Tactile Early Pattern Game
Simply stick the hanger onto a card background, or place on a white or contrasting background, depending on the child’s use of vision/tactile access requirements.
Position a range of shapes or textures in each circle area.
Provide the matching set of textures or shapes on a tray from which the child can pick one at a time and find its pair.
The game could be played with other children both sighted and non-sighted.
Children could make patterns, making a pattern along the top row for their peer to match on the next row. This could be done using soft and rough textures/textures with a sound, e.g. sandpaper, cellophane etc.
The resource could be used for counting, place numbers on card in each circle with an object alongside. E.g. the child reads the number four and then has to add four objects which are the same, or this could be extended to finding four different objects/finding four smaller objects etc.
For younger babies, as long as the textures were held securely in place and they were supervised at all times, it could be positioned on the floor for them to crawl over, experiencing a range of textures and squeaky, crunchy noises as they do so.
Add a range of chunky, bright coloured, interesting bracelets to explore whilst introducing B for Bracelet and the roundness of the round bracelet.
You could also add a selection of metal items (Keys, bolts, padlocks,) wooden items – e.g a set of different lengths and sizes of wooden spoons, natural objects, everyday items that are square/round/triangular, noisy objects, objects that begin with a particular letter of the alphabet (e.g. B for Bracelet.) The child could help to collect the objects and hang them on the hanger. It would make a lovely family hanger whereby each week, there is a theme for collection and articles are added by all the family members, maybe each family member’s favourite object could be added one week.
Visual skills mobile or wall hanging
Hang shiny, bright objects and textures to explore.
I have developed other Top Tips for practitioners and parents for you to download as PDFs for free:
You can visit my Positive Eye website for more ideas and suggestions for working with children with VI.