An integral, core role and at the heart of all that we do, is our responsibility to help the child or young person and their family to develop a positive approach to being visually impaired. A second and equally important role is to support those around the child and the family to also develop a more positive approach to visual impairment.
A positive approach by everyone around the young person is crucial to support their emotional well being, key to this is consultation with the child and their involvement in their support plan.
They are more likely to develop a positive approach to their visual impairment if they understand how they will benefit from learning a particular skill.
Ø What will it be like when I have learnt this skill?
Ø How will it be easier to do?
Ø What are the stages or steps to reaching the goal?
Ø How will I recognise my success?
By promoting real choices and involving the child in planning their support we encourage self-efficacy, good levels of motivation and autonomy where goals and anticipated outcomes are understood and clear to the child and all involved in their support from the outset.
Agents of change
But….there is a further additional role in creating a positive approach to visual impairment…to include a child within the mainstream setting, change has to happen. Our role is to work as ‘agents of change’ to support schools to truly understand the depth of need of children with visual impairment and to understand their role and responsibility to equally include the child.
From the moment we walk through the door of a setting or organisation, our role is to train, equip, skill build, raise awareness, encourage and support practitioners, schools and organisations to fully accept their role and responsibility to the child.
Effective positive support
Development of a positive attitude by everyone around the young person is crucial, to address and to meet their practical and emotional needs. We do this by delivering effective positive support
For the young person effective positive support means:
- Delivery of positive interventions, to promote and maximise their independence, enabling them to develop self-respect, a positive self-identity and self advocacy skills.
For the family effective positive support means:
Meeting the family’s individual needs by listening and responding in a timely and appropriate manner but also by teaching, modelling, encouraging and supporting:
- By modelling to the family how to provide ‘enabling support’ by demonstrating how to scaffold and mediate situations. E.g. encouraging parents to observe their child, spot the point at which they need support, then to offer suggestions or actions that actively help their child to take the next step.
- By encouraging parents to avoid making assumptions about the child’s functioning – for example, the tendency to over help their child, but instead to ask ‘how can I help?’
- By modelling use of positive language to offer feedback to their child about their abilities and competencies. “It was really good when you shared your toy,” “You used good body language and facial expressions to show you understood what your friends were saying during the conversation you were having”
- By encouraging parents to provide opportunities for their child to be allocated some personal responsibilities along with other family members
- By modelling to the family how to set goals, e.g. planning a trip to the park, to the zoo etc.
- By supporting the family to recognise their strengths as a family. Example: (I recently delivered some parent’s workshops and invited parents to make a Family Strengths Card. I provided strengths – written on tickets (e.g. Kindness, curiosity, love of learning, humour, leadership, stamina) for them to take away, to identify together each person’s different strengths on a weekly basis. I received positive feedback from the parents about how much their children have enjoyed using this approach.)
- By sharing fun and creative ideas, top tips and strategies with parents to enable them to support their child’s learning and development at home
For the school effective positive support means:
- A clear plan inclusive of roles and responsibilities agreed by all
- Staff training, both for key personnel working closely around the child, but also for the staff across the wider school setting for them to realise their role and responsibility in promoting positive attitudes and an inclusive environment.
- Treating the child equally and not as ‘special’ or by referring to them as ‘amazing’
- By avoiding use of labels ‘blind child’ or the ‘child who can’t see’
- By speaking to the child and not via the specialist practitioner working with them
- By creating opportunities to celebrate and focus on the child’s strengths and qualities, but equally and importantly opportunities for the child to support their peer group in a positive way
For the peer group positive support means:
- Friends to know how and when to offer support, to be given age appropriate awareness training (E.g. ‘A what’s it like’ workshop?)
Long term expectations and aspirations
- A joint role for the family and for key professionals is consideration of the long term expectation and aspirations for the child or young person
- What are the end goals and are they the same and understood by everyone involved with the child or young person?
- E.g. is the child challenged academically or are they placed in the lower group due to their visual impairment?
- Parents may not feel they can dream, hope or have aspirations for their child, that it is not possible to imagine where their child will be at 11, 16, 18, 25 years old. Yet we are all entitled to dream, to have hopes and aspirations.
Professional’s role in maximising independence
The professional’s role in maximising the child’s independence is complex
- Do you ever stop to consider the extent to which your support interventions impact on maximising the child’s independence?
- Do you offer opportunities and build skills and confidence to enable the child to work independently for part of the session, day or week?
- Do you stand back and let the child with visual impairment find their own solution to a problem, allowing them to make a mistake, to try different strategies, perhaps to produce a result that is not as good as the next person’s?
- Do you feel better if you step in and solve the problem, advising them how to do it, making decisions and choices on behalf of the child with visual impairment? Are you fulfilling your need or theirs?
- And what is the child’s understanding and expectation of support?
- Do they understand the part they play and their responsibility to themselves in becoming independent? Do they take some ownership for this?
- If we were to use the analogy of ‘Who is in the driving seat of the car?
- Which seat are you occupying? Which seat is the child occupying?
- The driving seat or the passenger seat? The driving seat whilst you introduce new skills, gradually moving over to the passenger seat with your foot on the dual control pedal as competency and then mastery is reached.