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Bullet Point Issue 6 now available featuring topics such as development during pre-school years, visual impairment and other disabilities, click here to find out more.

Education: The Great Equaliser!

Hello and welcome,
The following points have been expanded in the books available via my web site. They contain much more about accessing learning and the development of valuable skills.

Rgds Clive.

If You Don’t Do It Who Will?


Independent living skills


Factors often driving parents to place their children or young people in special residential, sometimes independent schools or colleges, are under developed independent living skills. Too often, mainstream placements and local authority services are not adequately addressing this area of need.

Meaningful Inclusion

Underdeveloped independence has a major impact on meaningful inclusion. When your child is young you can take him or her with you when visiting friends and family. S/he can then play in the garden or in other safe controlled environments. But later, can s/he ride his or her bike on the street, go to town unsupported or keep up with friends when out doing what teenagers do?...

Consider therefore the age related skills fully sighted peers have when compared to your child or young person’s. Can your child,

  • Get his or her school dinner and eat it unsupported?


Appropriate Behaviour

If your child or young person does not behave appropriately when interacting with peers s/he will not fully integrate ...

These issues not only affect your child or young person’s integration and quality of life but they can also impact on academic progress and later employment.

No child or young person should need to leave mainstream provision because these issues are not being addressed.

Developing Skills Begins with Assessment

Every child and young person needs to learn independence skills in order to shop, eat and drink outside the home, socialise and travel independently …


Independence can often be best achieved when activities are designed to combine a supported learning experience whilst trying something new and fun …

Teenagers and Professional Support

When children reach their teens many parents find that professional support is necessary as a demand for independence increases ...

Emotional Wellbeing, Motivation and Self-Determination

The level of independence an individual possesses is often connected to emotional well-being, motivation and self-determination …

Disabled children and young people can encounter challenges which impact on self-determination. These include,

  • Personal autonomy
  • Feelings of competence
  • Social inclusion

Evidence shows that many would like to develop independence but find it frustrating not being able to do so.

Meaningful Choices and Well-Being

Opportunities to make meaningful choices help foster feelings of control and self-motivation … 


Having the opportunity to support others can also build confidence, well-being and happiness …

Building Autonomy

We all must learn how to deal with frustration and disappointment. However, allowing the individual freedom to make meaningful choices and learn whilst maintaining support can be difficult. For example, when out and about,

  • Allowing your child or young person to use his or her mobility skills when crossing a road


At times like these you, your child or young person may notice dependence, experience anxiety, frustration and even anger.

Mobility Training to Develop Independence and Confidence

Your child or young person may want to visit shops independently or with a friend. However you might not be confident in their skills …

A mobility specialist can,

  • Assess your child or young person’s skills and involve you in the process


During mobility sessions your son or daughter can also be shown more general independent living skills …

A Structured Programme

Independent living skills sessions can potentially develop your child or young person’s feelings of control. To best achieve this sessions should be well structured. It is recommended therefore that targets set are SMART; that is,

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-specific

Developing Independence - A Few Suggestions

When the young person becomes older encourage him or her to,

  • Learn and practice new independence skills


As s/he becomes more independent, reduce your control over situations and allow the child or young person to,

  • Regulate him or herself more


Provide opportunities for her or him to make choices and encourage questioning but also make it clear where s/he can get support.

In a specific and quantifiable way encourage your daughter or son to take responsibility for his or her diary involving appointments, coursework and deadlines in order to develop,

  • Organisational skills


If necessary, enlist the support of a professional to advise you about letting go and allowing the development of independence.

Three books available via this site address these issues head on,


Independent Living Skills,



Mobility and Orientation: A Teaching Manual



Cooking Skills and Recipes

The Demands of the National Curriculum and Developing ILS

The demands of the National Curriculum make finding time to develop independent living skills during the school day difficult …

Skills should be age appropriate and, after assessment, taught and practiced in the environment in which they are required.

Suitably adapted or specialist equipment is also required …

Interpersonal Skills

Age appropriate interpersonal skills should also be covered. Under developed interpersonal skills might strongly affect social interaction. Input may be necessary in the following areas,

  • Appearance
  • Appropriate eye contact


Addressing these can be difficult. However, if you don’t do it who will?

The young person should be made aware, if necessary, that there are unwritten rules to appropriate behaviour …

Aspects of sexual health and sexuality may also need addressing …

All of this should be designed to ensure that a young person can manage his or her own care needs and make informed decisions.

Independence, Loss of Freedom and Autonomy

It is commonly believed that if a person isn’t independent then this represents a loss of freedom and autonomy which undermines the individual as a human being …

The notion of independence can be taken too far leading to restricts in the individual’s life … Consequently, the notion of self-help which is second nature to a fully sighted person might become frustrating to someone with a disability.

The fundamental notion of basic skills here impedes the quality of life and inhibits the disabled learner’s self-expression and independence.


Disability can also make the individual slow which can be made worse if forced into doing something which is very difficult …

The helper is, in fact, restricting the individual’s freedom of thought and action.

Pressure and Independence

Closely associated with the pressure to be independent is the pressure to appear ‘normal’ …

Technology - A Mixed Blessing

Technological aids can be a mixed blessing too. Visual aids, for example, give the impression that a visually impaired individual is able to perform in the same way as a fully sighted person. When actually, low vision aids can make the person less efficient. When using the aid the individual is often slow, makes visual errors and is also less likely to be helped by others.

Independence Undermining Self-Esteem

Consequently, striving for independence can lead to frustration and low self-esteem and the over-emphasis on basic independence can rob the individual of true independence by restricting freedom of choice and action. Appropriate support, therefore, represents a very difficult balancing act.


The skills most fully sighted children learn incidentally and by imagination are more complicated to learn for those with low vision. Families and professionals should work together from early years so that your child can learn and then internalise skills. This requires a comprehensive assessment and programme.

In The Beginning

Importantly, to begin, your child should develop effective motor skills, appropriate behaviour and an understanding of words like,

  • Left and right
  • Up and down


S/he should also know the parts of the body before trying to gain full independence,

  • Washing
  • Feeding


Time to Teach and Time to Learn

You must have time to teach independence and your child must be given time to learn. For example, it is often of little use developing skills when trying to get the whole family ready for school along with your visually impaired child …

Therefore, not only should the learning experience be fun it also requires sufficient time to complete tasks.

Be careful though, a child soon learns to go slow so that you take over …


Children often find it easier to begin taking clothes off before learning to put them on …



  • Clothes which are easy to put on and take off
  • Slip on shoes or ones fastened with Velcro



Meal times should be relaxed and pleasurable. However, in the beginning, eating with your disabled child might be difficult …


  • Plan the meal
  • Cover the floor so that any mess can easily be cleaned up



  • Encourage your child to enjoy the smells, tastes and textures on offer


Avoid distractions; for example,

  • Conversations with others



Generally speaking,

  • Make the meal time a special occasion
  • Praise success

Later, share the occasion with others …


Strategies must be consistent …

Meal times provide great opportunities for the development of social skills. Remember though, meals are full of cultural conventions with basic skills learned over time and for many by sight.


The level of mobility skills can, to a large extent, determine a visually impaired person’s quality of life. The ability to move around can affect the individual both physically and emotionally …

Two Fundamental Skills

The two skills necessary for independent travel are,

  • Orientation, which means having an awareness of space and an understanding of your body within that space
  • Mobility, which is the ability to move without harming yourself

To develop the necessary skills mobility and orientation needs to be an integral part of your child and young person’s curriculum … 

Aspects of Vision Affecting Mobility

These include,

  • Reduced distance acuity
  • Field of vision loss


Understanding the World

We develop an understanding of the world by moving around. Disabled children and young people who find it hard to move around can be severely restricted …

If children or young people are able to move independently their world develops. Through being exposed to a wider range of real experiences learning is stimulated.

Social Understanding

Mobility also helps to develop social understanding. It is in the wider community that new social interaction and contacts are made. Through this, confidence and self-esteem are potentially developed.

Risk Taking, Self-Esteem and Confidence

Moving around independently involves problem solving and risk taking. Assessing risks and taking responsibility for your own actions is an important part of development.

Moving around independently can also raise self-esteem and confidence …

Posture and Muscle Tone

A visual impairment can impede relaxed and quick movement. A lack of movement undermines good physical development … 

Poor physical development also restricts the development of coordinated movement …

Early Mobility Training

Being born visually impaired can undermine the forming of correct body concepts. It can also significantly impact on developing a mental map of the world …

Mobility and Employment

Independent travel is extremely important in finding, securing and maintaining employment …


When pushing your child or young person in a wheelchair consider the following,

  • Tell your child where s/he is going
  • Use symbols and objects if necessary to help highlight features



It is often primarily through sight that our understanding of the world develops. It,

  • Makes your child want to reach out and explore his or her environment
  • Encourages your child to walk towards a favourite toy or person
  • Enables your child to imitate the movement of others and to feel reassured by what s/he sees

However, possessing low vision need not be a barrier to learning as children have a great capacity to develop skills and make up for reduced vision.

What Can You Do To Help?

Your baby may have difficulty seeing how others move. Consequently, you will need to spend more time showing your child what his or her body can do …

It is important to give your baby warning about what is about to happen …

The smile in your voice will encourage and reassure your child …

Remember, the more stimulating your baby’s environment, the more incentive there is to move …

Compensating for Low Vision

A baby with low vision can compensate for a lack of sight, to a large extent, by using other resources …


  • Cuddle your baby because this is when s/he learns how the body works


Baby and Very Low Vision

Blind babies can appear more passive than sighted children of a similar age. They may feel safer lying down. Unfamiliar movement can cause upset and therefore may be resisted.

Your baby may need encouragement to change position …

A few points to consider,

  • Babies with low vision differ from each other just as much as sighted babies do, and their development will be just as varied


Encouraging Movement

Encouraging baby to reach out for objects especially if the objects make a noise ...


Lie baby on a fur or shaggy rug so that s/he can grasp the fur and pull him or herself over …

Reaching Out

A baby with low vision may need to be shown the connection between sound and an object …


  • Place baby in a large low sided box or laundry basket. Pad it out with cushions for support and comfort. This will enable baby to sit up safely even if not possessing the strength to do so independently. This way, baby gets a different view of the world in a safe controlled environment whilst giving you peace of mind


Try the following,

  • Bang things like saucepans, cans and spoons


More Suggestions

  • Put her or his feeding bottle against baby’s hand then gradually touch and move it away. This will encourage your child to look and reach for the bottle


Developing Confidence

Developing confidence will help your child begin exploring further away. This will help baby make sense of the world. These early experiences are vital for developing mobility.


  • Try introducing obstacle games. Encourage your child to place his or her body in positions which helps teach about the body in relation to an object

Through bending, stretching, climbing and wriggling your baby is exercising and developing muscle strength and stamina …


  • To encourage movement further away hang a beaded curtain somewhere safe in the house. Its texture, sound and colour may be interesting and rewarding to touch, smell, taste, hear and see


Exploring Further Afield

After getting used to one small area in one room your child may then begin to explore and find routes around the house ... Remaining safe may therefore be an issue …

Learning about the house prepares your child for an unfamiliar nursery or playschool and then later a primary school class.


  • Fridges, washing machines and vacuum cleaners can be fascinating
  • Talk to your child about all the sounds around but avoid information overload


S/he will have learned to explore by using other senses too …


Let your child go barefoot where safe both indoors and outdoors and feel,

  • Gravel, leaves, sawdust and sand



Supervising the use of a climbing frame may be necessary. It is important, though, not to be over-protective - a difficult balance …

The confidence to move about independently is gained from first-hand experience which sometimes involving an element of risk ...


  • Keep drawers and cupboard doors closed



For children with low vision mobility is an educational necessity. They need independent access to the,

  • Learning environment
  • Curriculum
  • Social environment
  • Wider community.

Personality, Confidence and Independent Travel

Personality greatly affects attitudes towards independent travel. Getting lost for some might be fun whilst others might find it upsetting …

As a result, simulating visual impairment is of limited use. If you are wearing simulation glasses and get lost you can simply take them off. For someone visually impaired, this isn’t an option.

Other personality factors affecting mobility and its development include,

  • Shyness
  • Assertiveness
  • Having a sense of humour


Motivation is a major factor in learning …

Transferable Skills

Mobility skills need to be transferable so that your child or young person can become independent …

Mobility Skills to Aid Inclusion and General Development

A mobility programme should include the wider community and involve your child or young person’s home environment. These skills will not only build confidence and self-esteem but also assist integration and help the removal of isolation experienced by many. Consequently, mobility should be seen as part of your child or young person’s general development and necessary for future employment.

Assessment and an Appropriate Programme

As with all targeted skills time must be made available for individual tuition in key areas …

Undermining your son or daughter must be avoided. Setting expectations too high will set a learner up to fail ...

Underpinning Skills

A functional grasp of the following is required,

  • Sighted guide techniques
  • Knowledge of environmental clues


Then, dependent on age and assessed ability the individual can then learn to,

  • Travel safely and independently indoors and outdoors
  • Follow instructions, use maps and access travel information
  • Negotiate shopping areas

Etc .


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