Toolkit: Cognition and Learning

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There are ways that we can support the student with access to learning as well as teach them the tools and skills to learn to access the curriculum and environment.

Here are some suggestions to support the various cognition and learning needs.

Skill development can start as soon as diagnosis has taken place, even before the child is aware of their diagnosis (if that is the family’s choice).

Keep text simple and the pages not too busy. Ensure that any photocopying is of good quality and, where possible, provide an electronic version.

Larger font size may be needed to access reading materials. Preferences for font size and style for each student will vary and may change as condition progresses.

The QTVI will be responsible for checking optimum font size for the student but if they mention that they struggling with their current font size / style then it’s worth adapting and contacting your QTVI.

Note that some font styles can be harder to read, e.g. italics. Arial and Calibri are examples of good typefaces as the print is clear, but again check with the student for their preference as it may vary.

Where possible, it is preferable to have work modified on A4 rather than A3 as less text to scan.

Images and diagrams should be provided in a format suitable for the student. They should not be expected to copy from board.

Allow extra time to complete tasks or reduce workload but not challenge or activity.

Having a TA / practical assistant to support the student may be beneficial. They might offer support as a note taker, help with practical demonstrations, and also read back work.

It can be very helpful if the teacher can read out what they are writing on the board.

Ensure that the layout of the classroom remains consistent, and that equipment and resources can always be found in the same place. Encourage other staff and student to ensure that items should always be returned (e.g. scissors always kept in same place).

In order to maximise access consider where the student sits in the classroom and other learning environments, e.g. ensuring that they are not next to a large window which might produce glare.

Bear in mind that more space may be needed on the desk / work surface due to equipment and modified resources.

Use specially adapted equipment (e.g rulers, protractors, calculators). Examples of these can be found at The Partially Sighted Society and the RNIB.

Accessible materials should be made available prior to lessons (e.g. hard copies or emailed slides / worksheets in acceptable format with regard to colour, print size, contrast) so that the student can access all content.

Reading lists should be given in advance (shared with parents in addition to the student where appropriate).

RNIB Bookshare UK education collection provides textbooks and materials to support the UK curriculum. They offer a range of accessible formats that can be read electronically or adapted to suit the personal reading needs of learners. They have more than a million titles.

Membership of RNIB Bookshare is free to educators in the UK who are supporting print-disabled learners and allows you to download curriculum resources, including textbooks and accessible images.

Families and schools can also access print books in the appropriate print style and size from Custom Eyes.

Technology can be extremely beneficial for students with visual impairment. Explore how you can learn to touchtype from the initial time of diagnosis.

Ensure that students are taught how to use shortcut keys.

Explore how the student can make use of screen readers and magnification software, and also use digital cameras to access the whiteboard.

Screen sharing software (such as TightVNC / TeamViewer) can be used so that the student can access what is on the teacher's laptop.

In exceptional circumstances (e.g. if an iPad is not available), consider allowing the student to use a mobile phone to take pictures and zoom in to access materials.

Explore use of audio books. For example:

Explore use of apps such as Notion to help with organising and planning their work.

Risk assessments should be carried out and acted upon in advance of any extra-curricular or non-standard school activities (e.g. school trips, activities involving water, overnight stays, night time activities etc).

In their own words

Having the correct font size and font type is really important. Otherwise I struggle to see what is written and my eyes get tired really quickly.

Learning to touch type early on has really helped me.