Resources for Educators
From the Teacher’s Aide Newsletter
TEACHING VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENTS? SOME TIPS!
By Pamela Ellen Ferguson Dipl.ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA(r)-CI, LMT (TX)
Is a visually impaired student about to join your school? I am happy to share insights I gained teaching VI students in the USA and in Europe, who taught me to:
- Avoid all assumptions, generalizations, and stereotypes. Go ahead. Ask the student how long he/she has been visually impaired, and if there is partial or intermittent sight? Ask about her/his strongest sense and navigational skills.
- Regard each student as an individual with widely different learning skills, learning models, and life skills.
- Spend time with the student before class to discover all these vital details – especially learning models such as: points of the compass (i.e., point your hands to the north pole); or references to time during stretching exercises (i.e., stretch your arms at twenty-to-two, then, ten-to-four; or imagine you are shaping a soccer ball, then a beach ball.
- Find out from the local library which textbooks are available in audio through the library network for the visually impaired.
- Or, where necessary, arrange to record texts through the Learning Ally studios associated with state-run schools for the Blind and VI. Rally colleagues to record with you. Or encourage students to sign up for elective credits. Recording texts will enhance their own learning skills!
- Encourage the student to walk around the classroom to select his/her best spot, possibly near an exit door to the restrooms. Make sure that spot is honored for the entire semester. Don’t move or touch items the student places around his/her spot.
- Ensure lines to and from the spot are free of clutter or other students’ backpacks!
- If the student brings a guide dog, make sure it has sufficient space. Discourage the other students from petting a working dog!
- Avoid jumping up to help unless asked, or you notice the student about to fall into a Koi pond or trip over a bicycle! It is always vital to honor the student’s radar system.
- When you demonstrate a bodywork technique on someone else, encourage the student to stand in front of you and place his/her hands over yours to feel the anatomical location, direction, and methodology. Talk through the demo. Use fun imagery (e.g., sink into the muscle or pressure point with your thumb as though sinking into a marshmallow). Make sure students exchange with one another during practice sessions so everyone gets a chance to work on and be worked on by your VI student.
- Suggest fun projects like group sessions around an anatomical doll with removable parts. Group projects are best when everyone benefits so it doesn’t imply one student is getting “special” attention.
- Encourage “study buddies” and “readers.” Such activities enhance learning skills across the board.
- Organize a fun session where you all locate and identify bones on a model skeleton. Or have fun shaping muscles out of play dough!
- Be creative and expressive. Add spark and joy. It’s a win-win!
Pam Ferguson is the Asian Bodywork Therapy Dean Emerita of AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Austin Texas. She has authored major textbooks such as The Self Shiatsu Handbook:, and TAKE FIVE – the five elements guide to health and harmony. Together with Debra Duncan Persinger PhD, she co-edited SAND TO SKY – Conversations with teachers of Asian Medicine. She is the ABT columnist for the monthly Acupuncture Today.