A preschool program for visually impaired 2-year-olds will expand this school year.
The Center for Visual Impairment teamed up with the Georgia Department of Education, Division of State Schools and the Georgia Parent Infant Network for Educational Services (Georgia PINES) to launch a pilot class last year.
CVI President Fontaine Huey says 90 percent of learning requires vision to understand what’s being taught. Children with visual impairments, Huey says, need to learn through other senses. She says students in the 2-year-old class needed to learn orientation and mobility skills.
“The general public knows this as ‘white cane skills,’” Huey says. “If you can’t see anything, how do you explore the area around you? How do you venture out?”
Huey says the children’s verbal skills improved, and they learned how to find their way around the classroom.
“The progress we saw in these 2-year-olds was remarkable, dramatic, significant, I’m not even sure what adjective to use,” she says.
For example, she says, one little boy didn’t talk at all when he started the class.
“At the end of three months, he had become the self-appointed classroom greeter,” Huey says. “Every time he heard the door open, he headed to the door to say hello to whoever was coming in the door, and to introduce himself.”
The pilot class had five 2-year-olds taught by a certified teacher and two paraprofessionals (teachers’ aides). Next year, Huey says, in addition to teaching 2-year-olds, the program will add a class for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds in August.
The goal is to ensure visually impaired children can develop skills and independence in preparation for kindergarten.