Future Reflections Summer 1990, Vol. 9 No. 2
Editor's Note: The following item is reprinted from the booklet Guides for Special Education No. 6: Education of Visually Impaired Pupils in Ordinary School, by J. Kirk Horton, Helen Keller International. It is published by UNESCO in five languages--English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. The manual, so the author explains in the introducation to the booklet, was originally written for special education teachers in Papua, New Guinea.
If a blind child does not receive special training in this area, he may not know how his body can move and his movements may be awkward. When he walks he may have either poor posture or the upper part of his body may be rigid. The child might not know how to bend at the waist or may walk with his feet far apart. When he runs, he might move his legs fast but move forward only a little.
Body movement is mistakenly often not taught. Sighted parents and teachers think that all children automatically learn how to run, jump, and skip. They do not realize that these skills have to be learned. Sighted children learn to run by watching other children run. Although running is not formally taught to the child it is learned by observation and trial and error. A blind child will not be able to learn to run by observation. He might hear the word run in a conversation and realize that it is the body movement of "walking fast," but that does not tell him how the body moves when running. He may have to shown how the legs move, how the arms move, and so on.A parent might have to show the child how to run by letting the child feel his body movements as the parent runs either slowly or in place. Or the parent might have to move the child's body to show the child the different movements the body makes when running.
The following motor skills and body movements may have to be taught. Give the child plenty of time to learn and practice these movements: running, jumping, hopping, skipping, marching, rolling, leaping, balance, turning, and posture.
1. Teach the child to do different kinds of animal walks. This will help the child to discover different ways his body can move.
a. Crab Walk: Sit on the ground.Take the
weight on the hands and feet. Move forward,
backward, and sideways. Do not
let the body sag but instead try to keep
the body off the ground.
b. Bear Walk: Bend forward and place hands on the ground. Keep legs and arms stiff. Move forward by moving the right arm and right foot forward at the same time. Then move the left arm and left foot forward.
c. Duck Walk: Squat down by bending at the knees. Put hands on the knees and move forward. Keep the back straight as possible.
d. Bird Walk: Stand on one foot. Reach behind the body and hold the other foot. Move forward and backward by hopping on one foot.
e. Frog Hop: Squat down by bending at the knees. Place both hands on the ground in front of the feet. Hop forward by placing the hands forward and then hopping to move the feet forward.
To make this activity more fun for the child, change the names of the animals to those with which he is familiar. Also have him make the animal's sounds as he walks.
Different types of human walks can also be taught. How does an adult walk? A fat lady walk? Or an old man walk? They all have different types of walks. You might have to show the child these different walks by placing your hands on the child's body and moving his body and limbs so he will understand the motion of the different walks.
2. Teach the child some of the following movements. These movements will also help teach the child the different ways his body can move.
a. Spin Like A Top: From a standing position
jump up and turn around to face the
b. Wheelbarrow: One child lies face down on the ground. Another child picks up the first child's legs so that the first child's weight is on his hands. He walks forward on his hands.
c. Line Dance: Have a group of children stand in a line behind one another. Each child holds the child in front of him by placing his hands on that child's waist. Together the whole line of children hops forward three times and then backwards two times, forward three times, and then backwards two times, and so on. Add music or different body movements such as kicking one leg to the side before hopping forward.
3. Have the child do exercises with you each day. Make this an activity that you both do together each morning: sit-ups, knee bends, jumping jacks, touching toes, twisting at the waist, running in place. These exercises not only teach the child body movements, but also are good for strengthening the child's body. Many blind children do not get enough exercise. They sit most of the time and are inactive. This is not healthy for the child.
4. Have the child hop on one foot and count the number of times he can hop. If the child has difficulty keeping his balance, either hold his hands or let him hold the side of a table, desk, or the wall.
5. Put a wooden beam on the ground and have the child walk on it. It is not necessary for the beam to be off the ground. Walking on the beam will help increase balance. A big round piece of bamboo can also be used. Have the child stand on the bamboo and try walking sideways, forward, and backward. If the beam or bamboo rolls, anchor it to the ground by staking each end and then test it yourself to make sure it is secure.
6. To improve posture have the child walk with a book or basket on his head. Many blind children tend to let their heads drop forward by not keeping their necks straight. This is not good for either posture or for the back muscles. Encourage good posture at all times.
7. Run with the child by letting the child hold one end of a towel or piece of cloth while you hold the other end. Run along side of the child or a little ahead of the child but not behind. Do not pull the child forward but let him run at his own pace. You will find that the cloth or towel will help you easily to guide the child as you run together.
8. Rope games are excellent for teaching body movements and coordination of body parts. Teach the child to jump rope. This is not an easy activity; and it will take time, practice, and patience; but it is a very good activity. It is inexpensive to do and is also an excellent form of exercise.
9. Hold a stick so it is parallel to the ground. Have the child feel how high the stick is off the ground and then pass under the stick without touching it. Gradually lower the stick closer and closer to the ground.
10. Ball games are also very good for developing body movement. Kicking balls helps develop foot coordination. Throwing balls helps develop hand coordination.
11. It is very important that a child is taught to make accurate body turns. He has to learn "to feel" what it is like to make accurate 90degree, 180-degree, and 360-degree turns.
a. Show the child how to make accurate
turns by moving her feet.
b. Have the child walk around a rectangular table while trailing it with one hand. At each corner she will make a 90degree turn.
c. Have the child stand against a wall and practice making turns. Start with the child facing forward with her back against the wall and her arms by her side. When she turns 90- degrees to either the left or right, her shoulders will be touching the wall. For a 180-degree turn she will be facing the wall and for a 360 degree turn her back would once again be against the wall. When the child is able to make correct turns using the wall as a tactual aid, have her move one arm length away from the wall. Have her do more turns checking each turn by extending her hand to the wall to see how accurate she is.
d.Place four chairs around the child (in front, back, and at both sides) and a few feet away. Have the child make a turn and then walk forward.If he has made an accurate turn, one of the chairs should be directly in front of him.
e. Have the child walk from one spot to another by following your directions. Give one direction at a time. "Walk forward three steps and stop." 'Turn 90degrees to the left and stop." "Go five steps forward and stop." And so on.
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