Visual learners that are visually impaired?

Is there such thing as a visual learner that is visually impaired? If you came to visit my grade four music classroom you would meet her. She would tell you all about her favorite lip gloss, her new music she is learning and her favourite TV shows. Basically, you would be lucky to get a word in edgewise. But one of the greatest things about having this student this year is that she has taught me some very important skills for teaching music to students who are visually impaired.

First off, just because she is visually impaired doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to see the music or instruments just like everyone else. She has been a committed recorder player this year and I realized quickly that verbally explaining hand position or tonguing to her caused her confusion. Instead, she became very successful when I stood directly in front of her and showed her the technique.

She also tells me if there is not enough natural light in the class. She will ask me to open the blinds or ask me if she can go and stand beside the window. I try to never stand in front of the window myself because the bright light is then behind me, which makes it difficult for her to see.

Technology has also been our friend this year. I was busy preparing music that was enlarged for her to take home when she informed me that she has technology at home to enlarge everything. She also has taken pictures of items on her tablet and increase their size to see them more clearly.

This student also has incredibly strong sense of pitch. She is easily able to play pieces on the recorder that she has heard and can sing along to songs soon after learning them. I thought that the heightened sense of pitch for visually impaired people was a myth, but after reading a few articles on the topic it seems that that is the reality. People who are visually impaired often have perfect pitch or a strong sense of pitch. My student certainly fits in that category.

Teaching this student has taught me a lot as an educator. It has confirmed some previously held beliefs, and has brought to light some new discoveries about teaching someone who is visually impaired. This has made me a better teacher for all of my students.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my first year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and cool students.

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