The new SEND guidelines will have already changed many of the SEND issues that you face in your classroom on a day-to-day basis. One such change will be the more likely inclusion of those with physical disabilities in a mainstream classroom. Physical limitations are not always restricted to mobility issues though; perhaps you are now teaching or expecting to teach a child with visual impairment? If you are, this post will help you overcome some of the main barriers and allow that pupil to be fully included in the classroom experience.
Once you have determined the level of impairment the pupil faces, you can start to ensure you have the appropriate resources. The obvious change you will need to make to your resources is to ensure their availability in large print; however, have you considered how you will store these resources? Whilst worksheets might just need extra sheets, a large print book might take up considerably more room on your shelf. For those with limited vision, an iPad or tablet is going to become vital. There are a variety of apps over and above the standard audio-book that are available to assist those with visual impairment such as talking cameras that literally read text, large text internet browsers and even apps that allow you to type in Braille.
You will take your accessibility of the classroom for granted. You know where things are and how things are laid out. But take a minute to think what it would be like if you weren’t able to see this layout so easily. Could you navigate your way around safely without being able to see? Five minutes spent clearing pathways between key areas of the room – for example between the door, your desk and the desk the pupil will sit at – will increase the independence the young person can have in the room.
Furthermore, the pupil may need additional light or other physical aids, so their desk will need to be positioned next to a power socket. Do you always have resources out in the classroom or are some brought out for specific activities? Either way, try to put them in the same place each time so that the pupil can retrieve items on their own, again increasing independence.
As with any limitation or difficulty, the challenge that the pupil themselves will care about the most is their social inclusion. The secondary goal for all the adaptations you make is that the pupil with the visual impairment will have as much independence as possible within the classroom and the class activities, thus enabling them to integrate as much as possible with the rest of the class. However, you will probably have a less than ideal budget to work with. The best way to approach this is the same as will apply to all pupils with SEND issues – pro-actively. Choose 2 or 3 pupils to be a circle of friends for the young person and encourage them to identify potential issues before they arise as well as creating peer-led solutions for those issues.