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Supporting physical development in early childhood
Supporting physical development in early childhood

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5.2 Partially sighted or visually impaired children

Children who are partially sighted or visually impaired often experience limited opportunities to develop their overall strength and muscle tone. This is partly because they cannot move fast enough to explore their limits and fully engage in physical risks and challenges. They may also have problems with balance and spatial awareness.

To develop their balancing ability and to support the vestibular system, children who are partially sighted or visually impaired need lots of opportunities to enjoy movements that will do this. Their spatial awareness and proprioceptive system will also need to be carefully nurtured through a range of movement opportunities.

It can often be difficult for them to join in with group games and activities and they may be over-protected by parents/carers who are understandably anxious about their safety.

Activity 5

Read the following case study and then answer the questions that follow to consider how you would best support a partially sighted child such as Jack.

Case study of Jack: a partially sighted child

Jack is 5 years old and is partially sighted. He has worn glasses since he was a baby and attends a mainstream school. His general health is good and he is a popular member of his class. He experiences difficulties with balance and spatial awareness and sometimes gets frustrated when he can’t join in vigorous physical activities with his friends.

What suggestions could you make to Jack’s teacher to best support his physical development?

How could you support his friends to include him more in their play?

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Ways to encourage Jack’s spatial awareness and proprioceptive sense:

  • Digging and being very vigorous with different sized tools in sand or soil
  • Lifting and carrying heavy resources such as books, tyres, buckets of sand or water
  • Pushing and pulling a box full of soil or another child sitting in a cart or on a bike
  • Smashing and banging appropriate resources
  • Crawling through a short tunnel
  • Sweeping away puddles or brushing up leaves.

Ways to support Jack’s balancing and vestibular system:

  • Sliding down a slide
  • Crawling through a big box or between chairs; getting into small spaces, for example, a suitcase
  • Rolling over objects such as a camping mattress, a cushion or duvet
  • Sitting on a swing with them and slowly moving back and forth
  • Jumping on a trampoline with support
  • Using a balancing bike
  • Holding on to a pillar with one arm and moving around at speed.

It is often difficult for children like Jack to develop these skills. They tend to dislike the usual swinging, swaying and twirling activities as they don’t feel safe, so have to find other ways!

Ways to support Jack’s friends to include him more in their play:

  • Use apparatus or resources that may be shared with friends
  • Small group activities using a single piece of apparatus like a large sheet or parachute where they can all play together as they hold onto the sheet and move it up and down
  • Big boxes or bags that the children can fill with items and move around together are also useful.