Compensatory & Functional Skills for Visual Impairments

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you teach students with visual impairments, you might be thinking about what aspects of the curriculum you want to enhance for them. This lesson focuses on compensatory access and functional skills for these learners.

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

As a teacher of students with visual impairments, Brenda knows that there are some extra steps she has to take for her students. Visual impairments are disabilities that affect students' sight and capacity to process visual information.

Brenda knows, of course, that it is important for her to hold her students to high academic expectations, and she teaches them reading, writing, math, science and social studies. At the same time, she also knows that her students must sometimes work much harder than typically developing peers to gain academic skills and function in the world around them.

Brenda understands that teaching her students self-care, for instance, is every bit as relevant as teaching them multiplication. She thinks about this additional teaching as compensatory and functional skill development for students with visual impairments.

What Are Compensatory Access Skills?

As Brenda knows, compensatory access skills are those skills that a student with visual impairments will need to develop to learn in spite of impaired vision.

Some of the compensatory access skills Brenda works on with her students include:

  • Helping them develop concepts of size, shape, texture and spatial relationships via touch and other concrete experiences
  • Teaching Braille and/or teaching students to use large print or work with assistive technology to read
  • Explicitly teaching social interaction skills that allow students to learn in cooperative groups

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