Physical Education and Sports for Students with Blindness or Low Vision

Many students with blindness or low vision are uncomfortable in gym classes because most activities require eye-hand coordination, quick visual responses, and coordinated eye-motor skills. Because many physical education teachers don’t realize that students with blindness or low vision can take part in sports, children are often given the role of scorekeeper or timekeeper. They don’t get to play with their classmates regularly, and they don’t get a chance to develop their physical skills. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Help Your Blind Child Make the Grade in Physical Education

Given the increased rate of obesity observed among children today, helping your child have success in PE class or in other organized sports is important if he is going to grow into a healthy, active teen and young adult.

If you’re concerned about your child getting enough physical activity in school, talk with members of the educational team, especially the TVI and the orientation and mobility instructor. Ask them to spend time observing your child in PE and recommend to the PE teacher how to help your child participate more fully.

  • Ask the TVI to suggest any special equipment that would make it easier for your child to participate, such as a ball with a bell to use during soccer or a brightly colored volleyball rather than a white ball. The teacher might also propose modifications such as adding high-contrast tape to a post your child needs to reach or placing a beeper or other auditory cue behind the post.
  • Find out what sports your child will be playing in gym class or wants to play in an after-school program, and practice them with your child. If you’re not athletic, ask a family member or friend to help your child learn to throw a softball or dive from the edge of a pool. That sort of one-on-one learning with a supportive teacher can help build your child’s confidence and skills before he has to perform with a group of sighted children.
  • You may want to talk with the TVI and PE teachers about noncompetitive activities that could be incorporated into gym class. Dance, for example, is noncompetitive, and many children enjoy the activity. Gymnastics is another popular activity that needn’t be competitive.

There may be times when your child can partially participate in an activity. For example, a youngster like Chuck might become a very effective server in a volleyball game and not be expected to receive the ball from the other team. In baseball, there are pinch hitters and pinch runners, so why not in volleyball?

If your child agrees, you could suggest the gym teacher ask your child to be the model when a new activity is being demonstrated. That way your child will get first-hand experience in what’s being taught. Also, if running activities are part of the PE curriculum, your child may want to run with a guide. In this arrangement, two people run side by side as each person holds an end of a short guide rope. The guide must communicate with the other person about turns, obstacles, etc.

Two sports have been developed to enable children with blindness or low vision to play with their sighted teammates equally.

  • Beep baseball uses auditory bases and a ball with a built-in sound cue. Players other than the pitcher are blindfolded.
  • Goalball is played on a court with three players per team, all of whom are blindfolded. A ball with bells is rolled by one team toward the other team, whose players protect their goal line with their bodies so that the ball doesn’t cross it.

When sports, fitness, and recreation become part of a youngster’s life at this stage in development, there are often long-lasting health benefits. Being active as one enters adulthood can lead to a number of advantages, including health and an attractive physique. You can help your child build a strong foundation to enjoy sports and recreational activities throughout life.

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