Scotomas – blind spots – can impact a student educationally in the classroom and as the student moves through his environment. Young students with scotomas are at risk for running into objects such as a book bag on the floor, pole in between school doors, moving balls in the gym, and peers running around the playground.
Students can learn to compensate for these gaps in their vision, starting with seat activities with both the student and the activity remaining stationary, then activities where the student is stationary but working with a moving object and/or the student is moving and the object is stationary, and finally progressing to both the student and object are moving.
Seat work activities
See the Paths to Technology post, Using iOS Tracing Apps: Young Students with Blind Spots for detailed information about tracing apps and activites.
Initially, it is easiest for the student to use his finger to trace a stationary object. Then, have the student use his finger to touch or track a moving object. In addition to tracing apps, there are many visual scanning apps that have moving objects, such as:
ChittyChitty Original, where a red ball moves along trails.
Catch, Fideo, Catch! Fido is a cute little puppy who loves to run, jump and play. Catch the bones and balls for extra points!
When a student is doing seat work, he/she is working on a limited plane. It is important to teach students to look up, down, left and right (various planes); be sure to include scanning and tracking activities while standing and while moving. Young students will often only look for objects on one plane – if the student keeps his head up and looks straight ahead, he will find objects at head height. If the student tends to look down at his feet (especially when walking), he may only find objects on the ground. Encourage the student to look for objects on all planes. When searching for an object, teach the student to use a systematic approach. When tracking an object, track objects moving horizontally, vertically, diagonally, and in varied patterns.
Student stationary; objects moving
Choose activities that involve objects that are interesting to your student. Have the student stand/sit still while visually tracking a moving object. Initially, try having the student point to the object, then track the object with his finger. Observe how the student is able to follow the object (smooth or jerky movements?) and observe how the student’s eyes and head positions as he/she tracks.
- Track moving balls
- Younger students may be positioned in a corner (walls on two sides) with legs out in a “V”; roll the ball slowly to the student
- Track moving cars or trucks on the street.
- While standing safely on the sidewalk, choose a specific car (color, truck, etc.) and have the student watch for that vehicle, then track the vehicle.
- Stand near an intersection and have the student track the vehicle through the intersection or around a corner (Add in O&M concepts here!)
- Track fish in a fish tank
- Track Dogs, birds, squirrels, pets
- Track wind-up toys or remote controlled toys
- Track a flashlight beam in a dark room (great outdoor family activity at night)
- Find and track objects while sitting in a moving car (great family activity
Student moving; object stationary
- Gather scattered objects off the floor
- Object sizes may vary, according to the student’s vision and age; ideally 1” objects
- Find and gather objects placed on the library bookshelves
- Object sizes may vary, according the student’s vision and age; ideally 4” – 6” objects
- Secretly place objects on different planes, with and without color contrast, and with and without visual clutter
- Repeat activity placing “bugs” or “animals” (toys) around the playground structure – ask student to capture the bugs/animals and place them in the “cage” (large jar/canister or bucket)
- Student walking along a line
- Use colorful masking tape to create straight lines, zig-zag lines, curved lines, intersecting lines, varied patterns on the floor
- Start with simple lines and then progress to more complicated lines
- Use different widths of masking tape; if necessary, start with double lines with a student who has large blind spots
- In the gym, student runs and follows the basketball court line
- Tell the student which line to follow (color of line, thickness of line, circular line, etc.)
- Observe if the student can follow the line (especially the curved lines), if the student prefers to run to one side of the line, head/eye position, if the student misses a turn, jumps to another line, etc.
- Walk on raised boards, such as railroad ties around the playground or flowerbeds
- Remember, students with scotomas may need close supervision as they may miss the turn or edge of a raised board!
Student moving; object moving
- Roll a ball to the stationary student
- Have the student “stop” the ball by placing his/her foot on top of the ball
- Have the student move a step or two left or right in order to stop the rolling ball
- Have the student kick the ball that was rolled to him/her
- Soccer “dribble” a ball (small controlled kicks to move the ball across the gym floor)
- Run after/along side a moving ball
- Track moving objects (such as cars, people, pets) while walking on the sidewalk
If possible, introduce these skills and activities in a quiet environment. As the student progresses, include several peers with the activity. Remember, the long-term goal is to help the student learn to be safe (and actively participating) in busy environments such as in gym class, on the playground, and in his/her community. The student will not be safe crossing streets if he unable to visually and/or auditorily track moving traffic! These tracing, scanning and tracking activities will help the student learn to position his/her head and eyes to be able to look around the scotoma, will help the student to anticipate typical lines/trajectories and will help the student to process visual information in order to “fill-in-the-gaps”.