Adapting lessons for children with vision impairment: Part one

Post date: 
Thursday, 30 June 2016
Anna Pilson

In a series of real-life case studies, Anna Pilson (pictured), a QTVI from Sheffield, shares how to approach modifying resources for learners with vision impairment. In part one of three, Anna tells the story of her Year 7 history student.

The key role of a qualified teacher of children with vision impairment (QTVI) is to provide support to children with VI so they have access to the curriculum effectively. This might mean changing resources into a format the child can read, such as large print, braille or electronic formats. We also need to consider content and might simplify the language or reduce the volume. This allows the child to meet the learning objectives while keeping up with the pace of the lesson.

Brandan’s story

Brandan has been blind since birth and recently moved to mainstream secondary school with a VI integrated resource. This is where specialist staff are based on-site to support children with VI. Brandan works using the Grade 2 Unified English Braille code, although is not always secure on contractions (combinations of dots that represent part of whole words). His reading rate is slow and he requires additional reinforcement of instructions and key information. He is currently working at a level comparable to an old National Curriculum Level 3, which puts him towards the lower end of ability in his class.

Adapting resources

The class teacher asked pupils to read a document about the decline of the Roman Empire, create a mind-map to show an understanding of the information, and to meet the lesson objective, write a response explaining the decline. The text was presented in size 8 font and was complex in content as well as being a full A4 sheet in length.
To make sure Brandan could keep up with peers and achieve a good level of independence, I reduced the volume of information and simplified the language, but retained key words and enough relevant content from which to make a judgment. I then sent the document to the teacher for his feedback.
By producing this resource, the teacher had a clear example of what level of differentiation in terms of volume and language would allow Brandan to access the lesson effectively.

While the pupil's learning is ultimately the responsibility of the teacher, QTVIs may need to demonstrate differentiation to upskill the teacher in meeting the needs of the individual student.

Maintaining regular dialogue with school staff helps support the child by ensuring everyone is aware what skills the child needs to develop to progress towards independence, such as braille literacy, team working skills and curriculum knowledge.

Practical preparation

At Sheffield Vision Support Service, we are able to request bespoke modified resources for pupils. Our Curriculum Support Officer allocates requests to technical staff based on priority and urgency. Technical staff then refer to our personalised work preparation form to prepare the work in a format the child can read. The form outlines a pupil's individual formatting preferences and current access requirements.
I requested a double-line spaced copy of the revised document in braille for Brandan so he could underline key words and phrases using tactile wikki sticks. This would support the development of his braille reading, tracking and locating skills, which are useful for work across the curriculum.

It's important to balance the need to keep up with the pace of the lesson, develop subject-specific knowledge, and support additional curriculum skills, in this case braille literacy.

Accessing the lesson
Brandan accessed the lesson successfully using the modified resource. He focussed on reading the braille and underlining key ideas to prepare for his written task. We decided for Brandan not to complete the mind-map task to give him adequate time to build up his tactile skills and not overload him. Instead, the reinforcement of information took place through the underlining task, allowing him to meet the lesson objectives of identifying and selecting information.

It is not necessary to modify every resource or for the pupil to complete all activities. As long as they have the opportunity to meet the same objectives as their peers, they therefore have the opportunity to make the same progress.

After the lesson, I made sure I had the opportunity to discuss with Brandan how he thought the task went. This allowed me to reflect on my practice, but also to encourage Brandan to take responsibility for his learning. His feedback allowed me to gradually reduce adult support in other similar tasks, allowing him to participate more independently in the lesson, demonstrating his knowledge and skills development and also increased self-esteem.
This is just one case study into a single lesson, but it shows how important it is for the QTVI to model good practice, upskilling both teacher and child, and ensure that there are good communication channels to inform future differentiation, modification and support across the curriculum.

Sheffield Vision Support Service

Sheffield Vision Support Service supports children with VI from birth to 25 years of age. As a teaching service, one of our key aims is to enable each child to maximize their educational opportunities. We do this by supporting an inclusive learning environment where children can use their abilities to the full. The service visits schools across the city to provide bespoke modification of learning resources, mainstream staff training, specialist teaching and in class support.

Part two: Year 9 maths students

Further information

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