Autism and Visual Impairment: Teaching Strategies and Advice for Parents

Monday October 7, 2019 at 8:56 AM


Autism and Visual Impairment: Teaching Strategies and Advice for Parents

This month’s issue of Metro Parent features an interview with Paula Baloga, Clinical Director at Gateway’s Sterling Heights location. In the article, Paula shares her thoughts and advice regarding teaching strategies for visually impaired individuals on the autism spectrum. These insights are derived from Paula’s direct experience working with this population and using a variety of techniques, all of which are aimed at nurturing greater independence. The article provides an overview of components of effective teaching strategies, including drawing on all the senses, creating opportunities for success, and incorporating the parents and other professionals in the development of goals.

Paula notes that the teaching procedures used for visually impaired children with autism are not that all that different from those used for sighted children. Both aim for the same goal, which is to promote independence through the acquisition of basic or complex skills. For example, take the ability to label items in the environment, which is essential to basic communication. Paula uses the example of an apple to describe how one might go about teaching this skill with a visually impaired child on the spectrum, first by labeling the apple for the child, then having the child feel its shape and texture, taste the apple, hear the sound of taking a bite, and so on. By engaging multiple sensory modalities, the child can begin to comprehend the meaning of the word in a tangible way.

Parents of visually impaired children may have a tendency to lead from the front while their children follow. While acknowledging parents’ good intentions, Paula cautions that this approach could lead to the child becoming more dependent on others. Instead, parents are encouraged to prompt from behind, allowing the child to explore on his or her own. The article also explains how the family and other caregivers should work collaboratively to promote consistency in teaching strategies. It is also a helpful way to make sure skills generalize to all settings in the child’s environment. Having a team working together helps problem solve any difficulties that may arise when teaching new skills.

All of us at Gateway are extremely proud of Paula and her efforts in developing teaching plans to help her clients live fuller and more independent lives. If you’d like to read the Metro Parent article in its entirety, take a look at this link: MetroParent. Stay in touch with us by following our social media accounts and stay up to date with events in your area by reading our weekly blog posts. Thank you and have a great week!

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