SASVI students participate in age appropriate use of the Australian Curriculum as well as the Expanded Core Curriculum.
Vision is the primary integrating sense, and plays a vital part in learning. It is estimated that up to 80% of learning is visual.
Children and young people with vision impairment (VI) will often have delays in concept development, as they may receive reduced incidental information from their environment. They may have limited ability to scan and connect items of information.
To support successful learning, students with VI may need:
- adaptation of the regular curriculum (content and strategies)
- use of adapted teaching methodologies
Research shows that students with VI usually require planned and structured delivery of an expanded core curriculum with explicit teaching and assessment.
This curriculum includes:
- Functional Vision Training
- Independent Living Skills
- Orientation and Mobility
- Recreation and Leisure
- Social Skills
- Technology Skills, including Adaptive Technology and Touch Typing
- Transition to Post School Pathways
Students with VI need to develop competence and confidence with a flexible system of reading and writing that supports an efficient work rate and reduces visual fatigue. To access and produce print, students are likely to use alternative formats such as Braille, tactile diagrams, large print and/or audio. Students are assessed throughout their education to identify the most accessible medium/media. This also involves learning to use a range of technologies.
Most students with VI have some useful vision. Individuals may use this vision differently. Factors affecting their use of residual vision relate to their eye condition, their previous learning experiences, and their environment. Students’ visual function can be assessed and they can be taught to use low vision devices and other strategies to increase their access to visual information. For example, it may be beneficial to provide instruction in the use of magnifiers to read print at close range and/or monocular telescopes and binoculars to view information in the distance. Having various ways of functioning, and consideration of environmental and social factors, can assist the student to choose the most efficient way of completing a task.
Gaining life skills for independent living is an essential part of a child’s growth and development. Reduced vision may impact on independence normally gained by imitation, experimentation and wide experience. Planned sequential teaching, including ‘hands-on’ experiences in safe environments will help to foster self-esteem and confidence. As the child with VI may not generalise from one situation to another, direct teaching and safe exploration is likely to be beneficial in home, school and community settings. Age-appropriate skills for personal care, cooking and home management, responsibility and organisation (including time management and study skills) are issues to be taught throughout schooling.
Students with VI may require:
- planned exposure to a range and variety of experiences to interact with their environment – home, school and the community – from early childhood and continuing throughout schooling into adulthood
- teaching, by an O&M specialist, of specific skills that will assist in the development of independence in their environment
Orientation and Mobility promotes safe, efficient and independent travel in the environment. Orientation is the ability to learn about the body and the space it moves in. Orientation is dependent upon the gathering and interpretation of available sensory information. Mobility follows on as the capacity or facility of movement.
Students with VI may require planned support to learn about and to access recreational and leisure activities offered in their school and local communities. Physical activity may be more difficult and reduced, with slower speed and freedom. Strategic teaching of specific skills can be taught and practised with appropriate ‘hands-on’ support. Sport and leisure activities with other sighted peers, as well as those with VI, strengthen physical health, fitness and wellbeing.
From an early age students with VI need help to develop age-appropriate understanding of their eye condition and how it affects their daily function. They need to learn how to answer questions from peers. Later they need to learn to explain to teachers, lecturers and potential employers their vision needs and how they successfully use adaptive technology and other strategies. Teacher-planned opportunities to practise decision-making, and to learn from experience, within the relative security of the school environment, lay good foundations for coping with the more complex demands of life beyond school.
A diverse range of visual observations and incidental social encounters play a key role in a child’s and young person’s development of social competence. So the student with VI is likely to require planned teaching to promote social understanding and the ability to interact with others. This may include learning to interpret and respond appropriately to conversations and non-verbal communication occurring in various social contexts. VI may limit students’ opportunities to observe subtle factors such as body language, gestures, facial expressions and other non-verbal information. Skills and strategies for play, conversations, active listening, reciprocity and friendship may need explicit teaching. Without healthy social acceptance by peers and social competence, a student with VI is at risk of isolation.
Students with VI need to learn to be confident and efficient users of mainstream technology. They may also need to use adaptive technology to gain equal access to the school curriculum and to work independently. Assessment of individual needs and systematic instruction is required to assist students with VI to learn to integrate assistive technology effectively into day to day learning activities.
Items used may include:
- Large screen LCD monitors that reduce glare
- Screen magnification software such as MAGIC
- Computer/laptop enhancements to the appearance of applications using programs embedded in Windows or Apple operating systems
- Large letter, high contrast keyboards
- Closed circuit TV (CCTV) for magnification of text or objects displayed on a monitor screen
- Talking technologies such as: calculator, dictionary, scales, text reader software such as JAWS