Will you have a child with a visual impairment in your classroom this year? Individuals working with children with visual impairments, whether or not they have other disabilities, will find the following basic guidelines helpful in interacting with students.

  • Consider the child as more like other children than different from them. Talk with the child about his or her interests and experiences and expect the child to follow rules that are appropriate to his or her developmental level.
  • Always let a visually impaired child know when you are approaching or leaving. Identify yourself by name, especially if the child doesn’t know you well. Never make a game of having a child guess who you are. To do so can be confusing, frightening, or frustrating to a child.
  • Briefly describe aspects of the environment that might be of importance or interest to the child that he or she cannot see.
  • Always ask before providing physical assistance. If the child cannot understand words, offer your hand or arm for assistance. If the child does not know you well, touch him or her only on the hands or forearms, as you might touch another person in a social situation. Reserve hugging and close physical contact for children who know you well, especially if the child is older than preschool age.
  • Use words like “blind” or “visually impaired” in normal conversation with the child but only when they are important to the topic being discussed. Feel free to use words like “look” and “see,” just as you would with any other child.
  • When walking with a child, encourage him or her to hold your arm near or above the elbow and to use a cane if he or she has one. A young child might hold your wrist or forefinger. Discourage hand holding as a means of providing travel assistance; help the child understand that it is a way of expressing affection and is different from travel assistance.

For more information, consult the “When You Have” series from AFB Press, including When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Classroom: A Guide for Teachers, When You Have a Visually Impaired Student with Multiple Disabilities in Your Classroom: A Guide for Teachers, and When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Classroom: A Guide for Paraeducators, available as a set or individually at afb.org/store.