Post date: 
Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Steve Brown, Senior Team Teach Tutor, shares his behaviour management strategies for working with children who have vision impairment.

When contemplating managing behaviours it is advisable to consider triggers and what drives and affects the behaviour that causes us the most concern.
Negative behaviours create the most frustration, resentment and challenges. They also provoke unreasonable emotional and psychological responses from adults. Consider the conflict spiral shown.
Children’s behaviour, whether positive or negative, is influenced by the reactions they receive, feelings that manifest and their experiences. To change and modify behaviours, the adults need to change experiences to create better feelings and be aware of others reactions.

Whole school approach

Individual strategies with children are important. Constructing a whole school holistic approach pays more dividends.
  • Environment: Safe places i.e. bean bags, tent, work stations – consider the places and spaces that children of any age can access when they feel frustrated, upset and angry. If spaces are not provided, children will feel more anxious. Providing quiet areas/rooms with comfortable furniture work well.
  • Transition: Transition times are usually the times of the day when children feel more apprehensive and unsettled.
  • Building relationships: The first rule of behaviour management.
  • Judge the behaviour not the child: Another important rule of behaviour management.
  • Think through behaviours that challenge: Which behaviours affect you and why? How do you react?


Processing language can be difficult for children with vision impairment. This could be because 60 per cent of communication is non-verbal i.e. body language, eye contact, posture, hand gestures and facial expressions. 30 per cent is about the para-verbal – not what we say but how we say it. 10 per cent relates to spoken language. Words alone are more difficult to process, especially when the child is in conflict, anxious or confused.
Children may have difficulties with:
  • Focussing attention
  • Processing information
  • Understanding words
  • Understanding longer sentences
  • Memory
  • Retrieving words
  • Selecting key information
The use of specific language strategies can help to de-escalate:
  • Engage attention before communicating: Use the child’s name before giving an instruction because this helps to focus attention.
  • Avoid negatives: State what you want, for example ‘Sit down’ instead of ‘Stop walking around’.
  • Holding messages: Provide step-by-step information and pause between instructions.
  • Restricted choices (best choice last): Giving a choice of two enables the opportunity to process between an undesired choice and a better choice. There needs to a positive intonation on the last (best) choice, for example ‘You can stay inside or come and see what is happening outside’.
  • Delayed compliance: Use the same words, spoken with the same intonation.
  • Presupposition: For example ‘Thank you getting on with your work’ or ‘Well done for sitting down in your chair’.
  • Saying yes but meaning no: For example ‘Yes you can use the computer, after you have tidied up’.
  • When and then: For example ‘When you have finished your work, then you can go outside’.

Visual Strategies

Visualising communication can work for some children with vision impairment. It really depends on what level of vision impairment. Alternative designs to these can be using braille or recording a voice message.
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