- The preschooler
with a visual disability needs to explore construction toys with both
hands in order to learn about their shape, size, texture, weight, and
other characteristics. Encourage the child to feel the toys all over
and describe what he or she feels. Your comments and questions will
help her become conscious of the toys' basic traits: "That block is
curved. Feel the curve." "Is the block a square or a circle?" The child
might also feel what other children are building (with their permission),
to get an idea of how to play with the construction toys.
- Once a child begins
to build with construction toys, you may draw attention to concepts
that other children learn by looking at the toys as they use them or
by watching others during play. For example, "You used lots of blocks
to make this wall. It's long. Feel it." "Who has more blocks, you or
- Emphasize the concept
of number, which can be especially difficult for children with visual
disabilities to understand: "You have two blocks on the top of the tower.
Feel them: One ...two ..."
- Encourage other
children to talk as they play and to tell the child with a visual disability
what they're doing. This will draw the child's attention to concepts
as well as involve her in social play and conversational language. For
example, "Carlitta, tell Renee about the long road you're making."
- Children learn
a lot about problem solving by trying out their own ideas, watching
others solve problems and adapting those ideas, and working along with
other children to arrive at solutions. Adults should actively encourage
a child with a visual disability to share ideas and work with others.
When the child successfully solves a problem, talk with her about it
in the vicinity of others: "How did you get those blocks to stand up
- Adults may ask
other children to describe their solutions to problems and suggest that
children work together. When a child with a visual disability gets "stuck,"
offer help by describing ideas that others have tried: "Duane made his
tower on a board so it stays up better." "Natalie put bigger pieces
at the bottom. That worked, too."
Children with Hearing Disabilities
- Language and cognition
go hand in hand. When children see something that is long, they are
better able to understand that concept by giving it a label that describes
the object (long block).
- Children with hearing
disabilities are not always aware of math words that other children
pick up more easily. You can help by observing their play and from time
to time encouraging them to use relevant terms as they play with construction
toys. For example, "I see you're making two towers. Which one has more
blocks in it?"
- Young children
are learning to solve complicated problems by using words to express
their feelings. Periodically encourage a child with a hearing disability,
who may be reluctant to speak, to talk about a problem-solving situation
and how he or she resolved it.
Chidlren with Physical Disabilities
- Children learn
by doing. If children with physical disabilities avoid building with
construction toys, they miss many opportunities. Helping a child find
materials and body positions that allow him or her to participate actively
can itself become a lesson in problem solving.
- Set out several
types of building toys and ask the child to find out which are easiest
to work with. He might also experiment with positions, such as on his
tummy with his chest over a bolster and his arms forward, lying on one
side with a support behind the back, or propped in a sitting position
in a corner.
- Finally, help a
child feel less frustrated as he manipulates materials by presenting
difficulties as construction problems to solve. For instance, ask, "Cody,
what might hold your building steady while you work on it? Could you
use tape or clay to hold it down somehow?"
These suggestions are from Merle Karnes, Ed.D.
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