Classroom Strategies for Students with Low Vision

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

If you have a student or students with low vision in your class, they may need some special accommodations in order to participate safely in the classroom. Read this lesson for some ideas about how to address their unique needs.

Visual Impairments

There are different types of visual impairments. A student may be able to see only a little bit, or unable to see at all. Some visual impairments are the result of damage to the eyes, while others are the result of damage to the brain's visual processing areas.

If you have a student who has been diagnosed with visual impairments, you should learn what you can about his or her specific visual needs. It can be helpful to consult with a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), who is a specialist in visual needs. For some students, you may also consult with an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist, who specifically helps students with low vision learn to safely navigate their environments.

In the meantime, here are some ideas that can help you prepare to assist students with low vision.

Classroom Layout

For a student with low vision, an unfamiliar environment can hold many dangers. You can assist your students with low vision by:

  • Keeping your classroom furniture in a consistent arrangement
  • Maintaining clear pathways among all major classroom areas
  • Keeping student materials in a consistent location and notifying students with low vision of any changes in the classroom layout
  • Informing students of the importance of keeping classroom floors clear and furniture in a consistent place, and asking the entire class to help keep the classroom safe from obstructions
  • Consulting with teachers of the visually impaired (TVI) for specific ideas about classroom lighting, as lighting needs of students may vary depending on the nature of their visual impairments

Teaching Strategies

When you have a student with low vision, there are several things to keep in mind about your own teaching, such as:

  • Seating a student with visual impairments in proximity to the teacher at all times. If there is an experiment or other presentation, the student with low vision should be given priority seating or standing room.
  • Teaching from a consistent location. A student with low vision should know exactly where you will be when you're presenting important information. If you need to move, say so. For example, ''Now turn to the easel on the right, where we will make a chart together.''
  • Developing a habit of narrating relevant actions and events. A student with low vision may miss visual cues, so make sure you provide auditory cues as well, like ''I am standing beside the whiteboard in the front of the room to check your work when you are finished.''
  • Avoiding statements that require a student to see in order to comply. Rather than saying, ''Bring your test here when you are done,'' you might say, ''When you are finished, place your test on the corner of my desk in the blue bin.''

Types of Materials

Materials for a student with low vision should be free of visual clutter, so avoid unnecessary clipart and extra words. Make it easy for the student to locate relevant information by:

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