Specific Ideas for Child Care Providers to Help Children with Visual Disabilities

Child Care September 14, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Child wearing glasses

The child care setting can be a confusing place for children with visual disabilities. Children who cannot see well are sometimes delayed in developing physical and motor skills. They may have trouble locating or picking up small objects that have been dropped. They may spill things or bump into things. Child care providers can help children with visual disabilities succeed in the child care setting. Children who cannot see well often learn through other senses, such as hearing and touching. You can help by providing children with many different ways to explore and learn. Helping children understand about space and size will also support their development.

Specific Adaptations for Children with Visual Disabilities

Here are some specific ways child care providers can support children with visual disabilities in the child care setting:

Make it easy to move around.

  • Arrange your classroom or home for safe and free movement. Provide plenty of open space. Keep doors and cabinets closed so children do not trip over them.
  • Place sound-making objects -- clocks, wind chimes, radio -- in different parts of the house or child care center. Encourage children to listen to the sounds to help learn their way around.
  • Help children use textures such as tile, carpet, wood, glass windows, plastered walls and marble counter tops to locate different areas of the building.
  • Keep space organized so children can find things easily. Place toys and materials in the same place every day.
  • Set up specific areas for play activities and routines. Help children become familiar with your room arrangement, and try not to change it often.

Make it easier to see.

  • Use good lighting to help children see better.
  • Choose toys and materials in contrasting colors. For example, it is easier to see objects in blue and yellow than objects in similar shades of red and orange.
  • Label items with large letters and pictures.
  • Label toy shelves by taping raised cardboard labels with pictures of specific onto the shelves. These labels will make it easier for children to return toys during cleanup.
  • Use blocks that have a different color for each size.

Use words and speak out loud more.

  • Read aloud stories that predict what will happen next. You also may wish to choose stories that offer interesting descriptions of actions or objects.
  • Use electronic "talking books" or books recorded on tape or CD.
  • Expand children’s learning by talking to them during activities. Use descriptive words such as long, short, over, under, big and little. Whenever possible, provide real experiences that show these important ideas. For example, you might offer a child two balls and say, “The ball in your hand is big. Feel how big it is. But the ball in my hand is small. Would you like to touch it?”

Encourage learning through touch for all children.

  • Use sand and water play, collages, play dough and finger painting as everyday learning activities.
  • Look for toys and books with raised numerals, letters, or designs that children can touch and explore.
  • Encourage children to build with blocks horizontally. Children with visual disabilities can feel shapes and lay blocks end-to-end or in different patterns without the frustration of falling blocks.
  • Follow up read-aloud stories with concrete experiences. For example, after reading The Three Little Pigs, have children identify straw, sticks and bricks by feeling them but not looking at them.
  • Cut out symbols, shapes, letters and numbers from sandpaper or card board. Guide fingers over these shapes as you discuss them.
  • Show children how to make rubbings by coloring over an interesting texture.

Teach other children how to interact with children who have visual disabilities.

  • Encourage children to call the child with visual disabilities by name to get his or her attention.
  • Teach children to use more words to describe what they want. For example, instead of saying “Come over here to play,” say, “Come over to the playhouse and play dolls with Maddie and me.”
  • Help children practice saying the specific names of objects such as a phone, hat or car, rather than using words like "this," "it" or "that."
  • Encourage children to describe their art activities or block buildings in words to children with visual disabilities.

For More Information

For more information on supporting children with visual disabilities in a child care program, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on Child Care for Children with Special Needs, or take a look at the following articles:

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.