Blind Students Learn Alongside Sighted Classmates

Filed under: In The News, Day Care & Education, Special Needs, Development: Toddlers & Preschoolers

blind preschool students

A new way to look at teaching blind children. Photo: ABC News

For children who are visually impaired, going to preschool often means being separated from their sighted peers. Attending special schools with adapted curriculum and classrooms, these children are allowed to take their first steps toward living independent and productive lives. But since preschool is as much about socialization as it is about education, does learning apart from their sighted peers exact a social price?

The non-profit organization Lighthouse International believes it does and has created a first-of-its-kind program that allows visually impaired children to learn alongside sighted children in the same preschool classrooms. At the Lighthouse International School in New York, all students learn a standard curriculum with minor adaptations made for those who are visually impaired. The bookshelves hold regular and braille versions of the same books and writing paper is raised so students can feel their work.

"The kids that are visually impaired, they're getting a regular preschool experience just like every other child should get," says Lighthouse International School principal Gregory Santamoor.

For Maribel Montes, the school has been a wonderful experience for her son John, who has limited vision. "When he first started, he was socially withdrawn and not as confident," she says. "But now, he has tons of friends. He knows all the staff. His confidence has built incredibly."

But while the visually impaired students most certainly benefit from this program, what about their sighted peers? According to teacher Regina D'Ambrosio, sighted students at the Lighthouse school may actually reap the greatest benefit of all.

"They learn that it's good to be kind," says D'Ambrosio. "It's good to help people and help your friends, and then they get exposed to that at a very young age... It's a life lesson learned."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.