Blind and Low Vision

What does ‘legally blind’ and ‘low vision’ mean?

A child is considered ‘legally blind’ if they cannot see beyond six metres where someone with full 20/20 vision can see up to 60 metres. They are also considered ‘legally blind’ if their visual field is less than 20 degrees in diameter (versus 140 degrees for a person with normal vision).

A child with ‘low vision’ has permanent vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses, affecting their ability to complete everyday tasks. Children with a vision impairment often have a degree of vision. As a teacher, it is important to know about the type and severity of vision impairment a child has. This will allow you to develop ideas about ways to make activities safe, fun, and as inclusive as possible.

What might be some challenges in the dance class?

  • A child who is blind or has low vision will face challenges knowing where other people are in the class.
  • They may have challenges learning new movements as they have to rely on verbal instructions or hands-on assistance.

If unsure, ask the child or their parents

Children with vision impairment may have a certain degree of vision, particularly under certain situations. For example, it may help if you stand directly in front of the child or to one side, or the child may be able to see bright colours better than dull colours. If you are unsure, ask the child or their parents.

Communication strategies

  • Always tell the child your name when you start talking with them, even if you have met them many times before.
  • In a group setting, make sure you use a child’s name when calling out to them or talking with them.

Orient students to the space

Students with blindness or a low vision may need to have a detailed explanation of the space arrangement and a movement orientation before each class session.

Give clear verbal instructions and movement descriptions

Common teaching strategies, such as saying ‘follow me,’ or ‘look into the mirror’ are not helpful for blind and low vision students. The initial concept of each step, pose, position, or movement must be conveyed without reliance on visual cues.

Use clear and explicit verbal instructions when describing dance movement. For example: “With your knees bent, take a small step forward with your right leg”.

Help the child move safely around the dance studio

If you are providing hands-on assistance to help a child with vision impairment move around, allow the child to take your arm, hand or elbow, and walk beside them but slightly in front. This will help them feel when you are changing direction.

Help them to prepare for changes (e.g. walking surface, direction, elevation) in advance by telling them what is coming.

Modify the environment to make it safe and predictable

  • It is important to have a safe venue which maintains clear pathways to toilets, change rooms and other facilities.
  • Keep the environment as clean and clutter free as possible.
  • Do not move items without telling the child.

Set up ‘space boundaries’ for dance activities

Set boundaries for dance activities. Boundaries can be marked with strings at waist height or the string can be taped onto the floor. Use bright, contrasting colours.

Be aware of students’ sensory needs and adapt as dance classes as needed

Find out what colours, textures, sounds, or movements each student prefers or dislikes. Objects with these qualities such as coloured scarves, soft balls and textured fabric can be used to enhance the child’s enjoyment.

Use physical touch and demonstration

Physical touch is an important teaching method with blind / low vision students. For example, a quick stroke on the back indicates to a blind dancer how to adjust their posture.

For blind and low vision students, physical demonstration means that the instructor must facilitate learning by guiding the student’s body or using tactile modelling to teach movement skills.

Tactile modelling can help students learn movement

Tactile modelling involves the student being able to touch a model, such as a buddy or the teacher, to help them to understand movement actions. Tactile modelling can be used together with other teaching methods (e.g., verbal instructions).

Give verbal feedback

Use verbal feedback to remind students of new postures and positions. Remember students cannot self-correct by using a studio mirror or by mimicking the teacher or peers.

Build a culture of teamwork

  • Pair the child with a buddy:  A buddy can help the child move around the dance studio and to model the movements.
  • Encourage the child’s parent and carers to get involved in the dance class as needed.
  • Work with the child and parent to brainstorm ways to modify activities, while staying true to the dance movements as much as possible.
  • Consider doing activities in small groups where the other children are blindfolded, allowing all kids to participate in the same way (reverse inclusion).

Encourage participation with praise and positive feedback

Be supportive of each child’s effort. Support their participation with praise and positive feedback.

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