At the risk of a some possible repetition allow me to emphasise and expand on the following points about modifying a
worksheet for a visually impaired child.
More on Pictures and Photos
Photos taken in the
classroom are not always the best quality. Yet for a visually impaired child
image quality is really important. Therefore it is worth taking the time and effort
to improve certain features of a photo taken in school. A simple (free)
photo-editing programme will be useful here. What needs to be done:
contrast between light and dark areas
brightness of dark areas
detail in the shadows
photos together in a cluttered collage but separate them out and surround each
one with a border.
photos so important details like children’s faces are clear.
Drawn images taken from a
book can be equally difficult to distinguish, especially if they are
photocopied. One image I looked at in an exercise book for instance was of a dark blue wave
against a dark sky, with a tiny spark of lightning flashing across the sky and
a human speck someone in the scene. It expressed a storm at sea, but was very
hard to separate out the details. With the picture went some similes on the
subject of storms and waves. With such a picture it might be best to start with
a different image, either from the Internet or drawn if necessary. Enlarge the
image so that small details are clear. If necessary only have one picture that
is really clear instead of two or three pictures that are not clear. The key
thing is to consider what is essential for the child to know. Images are
illustrative and it is not always vital to have more than one.
Allow me to repeat this point:
please avoid placing text on a picture or indeed any sort of busy background. This
is bad practice and makes text very hard to read.
The colour of the paper
used for text can also be quite crucial. With our student the colour yellow seems
to work well so paper is usually yellow.But for others it may be a pastel colour. One student cannot read black
text on a white background. So each child is different and needs to be assessed
in this respect.
The following points are also
assistant’s role is increasingly one of adaptation. Especially as the
curriculum becomes more advanced and the child becomes more independent, less
reliant on the adult support the assistant working with the child will spend
more and more time making resources and preparing work in advance. Therefore
advanced planning is essential to his/her role: planning with the class teacher
and planning resources to supplement the curriculum in one-to-one sessions. Access skills like touch
typing will become more and more important as the LSA spends more and more time training the
child to become proficient in keyboard skills.
2.For this reason
it is important that the balance of work reflects this role. I suggest that a
minimum of 25% of the LSA’s time is spent with resource making. Often it may be
more than this.
re-formatting a page and enlarging text boxes sometimes the enlargement messes
up the formatting. Some programmes like MS Publisher are especially bad like
this. So to avoid this you can reduce the amount on the page and enlarge what
is left clearly. In this case ‘less is more’. Also please note that elaborate borders are not essential; you can profitably remove the pretty penguin borders around the edge of a page of a worksheet and thereby create much more space for a decent A4 enlargement.
guidelines for handwriting it helps to make all the lines darker; where
necessary enter a space between each line of writing or as it may be each set of 3-guidelines. On the other hand a simple pencil line can be adequate where the child has to trace over a letter in black pen.
It was only fairly recently that I discovered the striking statistic that all children with Down syndrome have a visual impairment. I know that many I work with wear glasses. I also am aware that frequently they have no focusing ability so they wear bifocals. I am grateful to Beverley Dean for the info in todays
post. In 2011 she founded Special iApps for their son who has Down syndrome because
they found it extremely hard to find suitable apps for him. So she and her
husband made their own. This is an over-view of some of them and where you can
Special Words: allows you to do picture-word
matching activities, where you can also create your own word lists from your
own photos and entering text and audio
Special Stories: We use this daily for home-school
communication, it can also be used for instruction - sequences, social stories
and topic work to support curriculum.
Special Numbers: is number ordering and counting
skills up to 20, all activities can be configured in the settings to suit the
The Touch-apps are simple cause and effect apps that
support those at the early stage. 28 word, 20 numbers, 12 shapes, 12 colours,
and emotions which is free.
All our apps (with the exception of Special Numbers)
are available for Apple and Android devices and are switch accessible. Special
Numbers in not switch accessible and only available for Apple.
It is a great privilege for me to work with young adults who are at the start of their careers; some of these are highly qualified and skilled. They work in schools for a while to gain experience and then move on - and rightly so - to a higher and better paid career. They bring with them invaluable skills to their task of working with young visually impaired children. Josh is such a person and I asked him to share a little of his experiences hoping they will be of benefit to others.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Working as a learning support assistant
with a visually impaired child, I’ve found the most helpful tool on an iPad is
by far the ability to zoom in on text and images without loss of quality or
contrast. It is a simple tool that both Colin (not the actual name) and I can use with ease and it drastically
improves his ability to see books, worksheets and other learning resources.
For Braille the best app I have encountered
so far is BraillePad. BraillePad replicates a traditional brailler with bright
keys and a realistic sound when you braille a letter. It is a good size for a
five year old’s hands although it is missing the space bar, which creates
confusion when it comes to finger placement. Being considerably easier to use
than a real brailler it allows Colin to reach the keys that spell out his name,
which is important to him.
The Adobe Reader App is great for reading
e-books as PDFs. It’s quick, easy to use and doesn’t have adverts like other
PDF readers on the Appstore.
Letter School is an app used to practice
handwriting and letter shapes. The colour and contrast on this app is perfect
for Colin’s needs. The large graphics and interactive feel is very stimulating
for him and makes this type of work enjoyable and effective. Particularly the light
show sequence it produces when writing the letter ‘A’. This is a great app for
all primary school children but it is especially appropriate for the young visually
I am realizing more and more the importance
of sound effects on apps for visually impaired children. Just a simple sound
that signals positive feedback seems to make a world of difference when getting
Colin to do his work. This may be the case for all young children but in the
case of Colin the use of this other sense when working makes the lesson all the
When a visually impaired child enters formal schooling there is much to consider. First it is important to understand the child's eye condition. Then it is vital to appreciate the impact of that condition on a child's learning. I work with teachers and learning support assistants giving advice on how to modify and adapt their learning materials. I thought it would be helpful here to summarise some of that advice for others who are interested. This is what this post is about.
Contrast on Handwriting sheet
Enhance or increase the
contrast in all parts of a sheet.
Where the pupil has to
trace make sure the tracing letters are significantly darker than the
background and that the pupil can clearly/easily see what he has to trace. He
can go over the letters in the dark coloured pen that he uses. If the
letter-lines are faint the pupil will struggle to see what he has to trace.
Make sure there are ALWAYS
dark bold guidelines for the pupil to write between on all pars of the
worksheet where he has to write otherwise his letters may become too large and
Instructions, title & date
Instructions, titles and
the date should be made bigger - about 24 point. He should be able to read
texts on a worksheet without resorting to his magnifier.
YELLOW paper is a good colour to
use; alternatively use off-white. Pure white can be too reflective and may
cause a difficulty for a child who is light sensitive.
Increase the character spacing between
letters. Otherwise the pupil may have difficulty distinguishing between two
similar letters or distinguishing individual letters in a word. For a child
with nystagmus spelling is always a major issue because of this. Whole words
have a pattern and can be read/recognized more easily than each individual
letter in the word.
Key words or items of grammar should
be highlighted for emphasis (e.g. ‘s’
in plurals). Use one of the following depending on what is appropriate:
coloured felt pens
Size of worksheet
The larger the page the more difficult
it is for VI pupils to scan; the smaller the page the better. A4 is the
standard size for the UK; it is best to keep the pupil’s worksheets the same
size as the other pupils. It reduces his sense of being different. If an A4 sheet is enlarged to A3 ideally it should be
cut down in some way. Here are some suggestions:
-Cut off wide borders
-Cut the sheet in two or three.
-Reduce the information on the sheet. If it is a grid
or table with up to 20 rows in a column cut down the number of rows to 10.
Probably the information can be put into 10 rows and the remaining 10 be
task; it is good practice when differentiating work for a VI child to reduce
the work they have to complete. Have 8 sums instead of 10, 6 spellings instead
of 8 and so on. Because they are slower at scanning they may likely finish
later than their peers. This in turn can affect their self-image and give a
false impression of their true ability.
Extra Box for multiple-choice answers
Sometimes in a sheet the answers are
in a box at the top of the page.If the
pupil has this box copied he can match it while he is scanning the text for the
answer. This should speed up his working.
Speed and short-term memory
A visually impaired pupil’s scanning
of a page can slow him down. Find creative ways of helping him to speed up.
-Put his finger on his answer so he can quickly find it
-Use a notepad
to jot his answer down
Handwriting A VI child often writes quite large in order to be able to read his writing back. It is sometimes necessary to assist the child to write a little smaller and neater. Here are some suggestions to facilitate this:
-Ruled guidelines for handwriting on all worksheets even
-A consistent gap between lines so handwriting is not
-Sample/example of expected word size
-Training & practice on ascenders/descenders (d/y)
-Training & practice on letter/number formation
to aid letter/number formation (e.g. use of iPad app)
Pictures will often need to
be adapted. In typical worksheets picture details are far too small for a
visually impaired child to make out. Here are some suggestions:
-If the pictures
are not essential remove them or reduce them drastically. Four pictures of
sports activities at the top of a worksheet do little more than add to the
complexity of the page. They may be intended to brighten up the page or make
the work more interesting but they are not essential. Instead of four insert
one large clear picture or have no picture at all.
sit alongside text to illustrate the text, they may well be not essential and
can be removed, making use of the extra space to enlarge and clarify the text
Font typeface, size & formatting
-It is generally
not a good idea to use italic formatting for emphasis on titles or in body text
of a page. Italics are not easy to read particularly for a child with
-A sans serif
font is best; this is an undecorated font with no curly edges or corners; Times
New Roman is a classic serif font. Even Primary Infant Sassoon has serifs. Arial
does not and is the standard font used by the RNIB.
-It is important
to use the correct font and size of font for the child. If the pupil needs 24
point text remember that different fonts are different sizes. 24 point Primary Infant
Sassoon is smaller than 24 point Arial.