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August 15, 2000 COMMENTARY
CONTRIBUTOR: Susan Schocket, Career Development, West High School, Wichita KS

What can we do to help these students with developmental vision concerns to succeed in the classroom? We can pay close attention to the quality of our classroom materials and methodologies.We can create a better learning environment.

PLEASE NOTE: The information contained herein is intended to be educational and is not intended in any way as a substitute for medical advice and care from qualified, licensed vision care providers. For a referral to a provider, check your local yellow pages or the internet.

So many times we "copy and go" with our assignments without giving much attention to the quality of our worksheets. For your students with vision problems this can be disastrous! Below are some tips to keep in mind:

The less configuration on a page the better.

Print materials need to be clear and dark.

Large print with wide spaces between lines, words, etc. is best.

Light colored paper could be a problem for some students.

Nearpoint work should be limited to15 minutes or less. The student should be encouraged to look away from his work, sharpen a pencil, or participate in another activity maybe a discussion of the materials. This will allow him to refocus and his eyes are less likely to fatigue.

Encourage students to sit up when writing instead of resting their head on their desk or tilting their head. Students will do this in order to control their pencil. The eye nearest the paper overworks and neither eye can work comfortably.

Be sure lights are coming from behind or to the side of the student if possible. Always make sure lighting is adequate.

The day we ditched the slanted desk and decided to go to tables and flat desks to facilitate group work, we lost a tool that helped children with vision problems. A slant of about 20 degrees is the most comfortable for reading and nearpoint work. If you don't have slanted desk, encourage students to hold their reading materials at an angle.

Keeping the eyes at an appropriate distance assists in academic achievement as well as sports. Have students measure from their elbow to their knuckles then tell them they need to make sure they never get closer to their work than that distance.

We all agree that eye contact is a must for good communication. For the students with visual concerns making eye contact can also be a great exercise that helps with muscle control. Encourage them, require them, and help them gain control over their vision.

Change your sitting chart to allow students with visual concerns to sit in the front of the room.

Math worksheets can be cut in strips and stapled together to present less work at one time.

Folding worksheets to reveal less configuration at one time is good.

Always have lined paper for writing assignments, the darker the lines the better.

Encourage use of a pencil grip.

Mechanical pencils are better for some kids.

Provide and encourage the use of tape recorders for test, reading practice, daily assignments, lectures, and instructions if possible.

Give instructions and lecture orally as well as using your visual methods, most of these students are quite auditory.

Hands on activities are better than just reading about a topic.

Allow the use of a marker for reading. The rulers made for computers with the yellow stripe are good; they also magnify the line.

Encourage student to read aloud when he is reading "silently".

Shorten assignments, reading, writing and math, that require the visual modality.

Offer a transparency to these students to copy since every time they go from the near to far distance they must readjust their eyes.

Require less copying from the board or overhead. That near and far action is tough for a student with vision concerns.

Oral tests are good.

In conclusion, although this list is not a comprehensive list of all strategies to use with these students, it is a start. Remember that many of these students are in regular education, they are good kids, they want to learn and we can help. Visit our list of links to learn more.

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