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Visual Impairment :
Special Educational Needs

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Sighted children develop a range of independent living skills through observation and imitation in a way that is often impossible for their visually impaired peers, and we take it for granted that they will be able to perform a wide variety of tasks and functions at a young age. This is not the case for visually impaired children. Tasks that appear simple are difficult to complete without being able to see. To experience these difficulties a sighted person can try to carry out some of the tasks blindfolded, though it is impossible to experience what it is like to be congenitally totally blind and have no visual memory. Examples of such tasks could be :

making a hot drink
cutting 2 slices of bread and making a sandwich
locating clothing in cupboards and drinks and then getting dressed
moving around in an unfamiliar location
buying an item from a shop, paying for it and checking the change given
accessing the internet on a laptop
making a phone call on a smartphone

In contrast to the way in sighted children learn to do all of these, a severely visually impaired child has to be taught all of these using a variety of strategies which are an alternative to seeing. The curriculum for sighted pupils does not include daily living skills as it is assumed that they will have acquired them. However the curriculum for a severely visually impaired child needs to include them as many need specialist input. This extended curriculum can not be included within the normal school day if the severely visually impaired child is given equal access to the curriculum as a sighted child, so must go beyond the normal school day.

Skills and strategies which are taught need to be consolidated at home, and the extended curriculum for a severely visually impaired child needs to cover the entire waking day. In addition therapies to ensure that a child is able to access education should be included.

The Extended Curriculum should include :

  • compensatory and access skills
  • development of self-determination and autonomy
  • the development of sensory efficiency
  • the development of social interaction and communication skills.
  • independent living skills
  • orientation and mobility skills
  • the use of assistive technology
  • supportive therapy programmes
  • career/vocational education
  • access to appropriate recreation and leisure
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