Meeting Individual Needs
Seeing You Through
Gail Cawley Showalter
Iwas an art teacher before I
became a teacher of the visually
impaired (TVI.) As a TVI, most
of my days were spent mainstreaming students into classrooms.
The results of the 2005 SchoolArts
Teacher Viewpoint Survey stated
that, “sixty-two percent of teachers
checked ‘mainstreaming special-education students’ as affecting their
work.” In light of that fact, I offer
suggestions that may be of help.
I would like to see the inclusion
of all students into art classrooms
as having a positive effect. As I used
art with students who are blind, I
learned that the art process gives
them personal pleasure and provides
an opportunity for creativity that
does not place visually impaired
students in a competitive situation.
Instead, it gives students a fascinating and new experience.
A conference with the TVI will also
give you useful insights for teaching
the student. Some students use adaptive devices such as pen or brush
grippers that are great for art. The
TVI will advise you in the appropriate use of any device or equipment.
and tools give the
student a sense of
the art process is
As I used art with students
who are blind, I learned
that the art process gives
them personal pleasure.
A few simple guidelines help you
teach students with visual impairments. Three approaches will lead
you on the path towards a fulfilling
an easier teaching journey.
Consideration of the layout of the
room and the student’s familiarity with it will put the student, the
teacher, and other classmates at
ease. Ask the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist, if your student
has one, to orient the student to
your room layout.
Once oriented to the room, most
students will manage very well.
Alert the student to any changes
made to the room arrangement
throughout the year.
vide an alternative. A cafeteria tray
with rubber bumpers or rubberized
shelf liner attached to the bottom
provides a controllable boundary for
the student’s materials. For Braille
readers labels may be helpful. Ask
the student what she or he prefers.
These tips will help you will
take a few extra
steps to create a
in your class for
the student with
ments. Some of
my most intriguing and rewarding
moments as a teacher have been
with students who are blind, but
definitely not lacking vision. It is a
pleasure to witness as the student
discovers a new means of self-expression. Remember it is the expression,
not the final product that gives it
worth. Unlike other items in education, its value is not measurable.
What happens in the heart of the artist cannot be scored.
Evaluation Practical Aids
It is essential that you know the One of the challenges for the student
actual capabilities of the students. who is visually impaired is arrang-Students who are recognized as visu- ing and maneuvering the materials.
ally impaired will have a Functional Work trays are one way for keeping
Vision Evaluation (FVE) that provides track of art materials and managing
essential information for any teacher and keeping materials accessible.
working with them. It will give you Non-skid rubberized shelf liner is
valuable information as well as mod- handy for keeping items from slip-ifications for students. ping away. It will also prevent spills.
Simple homemade devices can pro-
Gail Cawley Showalter, formerly an art
teacher and a teacher of the visually
impaired, is the author of Time for Art, a
handbook available through www.aph.org.
Gail resides in Nederland, Texas with her
husband Sam. For more information, visit
her website at www.seeinguthrough.com.