Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Reflections on My Year in the Nursery with a Visually Impaired Boy


Zoe (look back at post on February 1st 2012) worked with one of my VI children for one year to support him during his time in the nursery. While there she made a big difference to his quality of life and education. She created a wide range of resources and was totally dedicated to ensuring Mark made good progress which he did. I asked Zoe if she would kindly sum up her year with Mark and suggest how she felt it went. The following is a brilliant account of her thoughts on that year. I hope the reader enjoys it and will glean what they can from her experiences. Zoe is now pursuing her chosen career path of being a psychologist, where I am sure she will make her Mark (no pun intended). 

It has been a truly amazing year for me and I have learned so much more than I had anticipated when I accepted the post as Mark’s LSA. In fact, it has taken me while to write this article because I have been struggling to put into words quite how privileged I feel to have been accepted into Mark’s world. It’s hard to understand unless you have been lucky enough to spend time with him. He is truly brilliant. I have mentioned in my previous articles how in his element he is when he is thrown into a role-play situation, but I have not explained quite how limitless and wonderful his invisible, magical world really is.



Most of the children in the nursery play ‘mummies and daddies’ and ‘cops and robbers’ as you might expect. But Mark’s imagination is in a league of its own. In our most recent adventure we were Prince Phillip and Princess Margaret (I realize this is an odd couple but I don’t make the rules) caring for our sick dogs. Next, we were off to a royal ball which was promptly over-run with pirates who were looking for a magical ball which possesses the power to destroy the world. Luck was on our side though as the ever-reliable Fireman Sam happened to be close by and was able to single-handedly save us all. Unfortunately Fireman Sam then fell ill with Chicken Pox after a nasty encounter with a particularly vicious chicken on his way home.

I have thought about this a lot and I wonder if one possible reason for Mark’s highly developed imaginative play is that it is one of the few things on which visual impairment has no bearing.



Having said this, he hardly lets his limited vision get in the way of completing his everyday tasks. In fact, Mark has progressed so much that it is almost as though my original article was about a different child. The majority of the issues he had when we first met have since been dealt with and overcome.

He now recognizes most of his classmates and all of his teachers and will refer to them by name. He is less tactile defensive these days and will regularly take part in cookery class where he will happily stir batter and kneed dough (albeit a little more gingerly than his peers). He still won’t touch glue but can be persuaded to paint his hand when making prints as long as he can wash them the moment he has finished.



 He is on target with his alphabet and his numbers (in fact I would say he is a little pro).

Working on the computer is probably his favourite thing to do at nursery. With an enlarged cursor he is amongst the most highly skilled and has excellent mouse control. However, he would certainly benefit from a larger monitor, which I am hoping will be provided for him as he moves up the school.

Mark also has a great mobility teacher who has been teaching him to be more considerate of others (e.g. not to push people out of his way) and how to navigate safely and thoughtfully though his environment. This has been extremely beneficial to Mark and I have seen some real improvements in his behaviour. He is far more considerate of his friends now and will help them up if they fall over and will say ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ without being prompted by an adult. He is also getting used to taking turns during activities - something that had been a problem originally.



Mark and I have also worked really hard on improving his cutting skills. This is an ability I have always taken for granted, not appreciating how difficult it is when your depth perception is less than perfect.  I was faced with a lot of resistance from Mark at first, but we persevered. I cut out narrow strips of brightly coloured card and held them taught in front of Mark. These were fish that were going to be eaten by the hungry crocodile (scissors). This fine-motor movement of opening and closing scissors using just one hand has become much easier for him although it definitely still needs work to catch up to some of his classmates.



 Another breakthrough, which I really cannot take any credit for as it took even me by surprise, is his new desire to hold a pencil. Never before would he voluntarily draw a picture, but in the last month he has started drawing pictures for his friends to take home. I think this is incredibly promising and reflects how much more refined his fine motor skills are becoming.

Maurice asked me to include some photos of recent resources I have made for Mark for use in nursery. I’m afraid I don’t have many things to show as I have been working on just a couple of quite time-consuming bits. The first is a mini-beasts textured counting book which I was able to finish just in time as mini-beasts became the theme for the nursery. It only goes up to 5 but we use this as a platform for simple addition. For example, ‘if two snails have a play-date with five dragonflies how many will there be?’ All the bugs are detachable and Mark loves arranging them into different groups and comparing the sensations of all the different textures. I used coarse, silky and fuzzy fabrics.



I have also been working on a general activities mat which is geared towards developing fine-motor skills. On this mat I have sewn a few different pockets. I knitted one for a bumpy texture and added a button and buttonhole for closure. It is Mark’s job to open and close this pocket carefully. Another pocket also has a button to fasten it but instead of a buttonhole it has a fine loop sewn onto it.  This one is trickier to get open and is intended for Mark once has mastered opening the first pocket. I have also attached an old purse with a zip which Mark can practice carefully opening and closing. The little beads add a nice texture for him I think. Small toys can be placed in these pockets as an extra incentive to get them open. I also sewed on some ribbon so he can eventually practice tying a bow. I had also planned to sew on a picture of a shoe and add some laces so he can practice lacing but unfortunately I ran out of time.

Overall, I would say that Mark has conquered nursery and is ready for reception. I am sure that this will come with its own set of new challenges and obstacles but this will no doubt be the case for all of his classmates.

So now I leave him in the very enthusiastic and capable hands of his new LSA who will see him through this exciting transition.

I would really like to thank Maurice and all the nursery team who have helped make my job such a joy and have taught me so much. I hope they all know how much their help has meant to me over this past year. I will miss them all and Mark very much.




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