I am writing to ask for suggestions to teach visually-impaired students science. How do you suggest to teach such students? — M., Iowa
First, you need to get to know the student as an individual learner. Start by asking the student how you can support them in your class. Then, discover and contact the supports for that child—teaching assistants, case workers, parents, resource teachers—and get information on what works and what doesn’t; which vision and reading technologies are in place and what will you need in your classroom; what services can assist you; and if you can access textbooks in braille or large print versions.
Only a fraction of legally blind people have 100% impairment, so you need to understand what level or kind of impairment each child has. For instance, a person with retinitis pigmentosa may have lost peripheral vision but retain a small central area of vision. To get an idea of what that would be like, you could spread petroleum jelly on a pair of goggles, leaving a small central area clear (or visa versa) and then try out your activities, handouts, and visuals. You should quickly realize this student would need additional time to scan across readings, visuals, and work areas.
Scan your room for mobility hazards. Pair the student with a buddy who can perform tasks that might be dangerous like using Bunsen burners. Physical objects may be an excellent tactile experience and observational exercise for the student. For dissections, allow them to perform cuts (scissors or scalpels) to their degree of ability and have them handle and touch specimens as the dissection progresses.
Hope this helps!