The first student characteristic to be considered is developmental stage. This issue is especially important if you are counseling the child individually since you will not see peer interactions in your office. The youngster with vision impairment has most likely spent more time alone in passive activities than same-age peers (Wolffe & Sacks, 1997). Children with vision impairments have fewer friends (Kef, 1997; Hurree & Aro, 1998) and may not have had the opportunities to develop appropriate social skills. In working with teenagers, it is important to note that individuals with vision impairments may need more support with some key developmental psychosocial tasks (Hurre & Aro, 1998). Bodily attractiveness is a central concern of teens during their sexual development. The teen with vision impairment may not have an accurate or positive concept of personal physical presence. A second important theme during adolescence is the struggle for independence. The teen with vision impairment has an additional struggle since some dependency upon others will most likely always be necessary. Analyzing how to ask for assistance when needed and ways to develop independent functioning are unique challenges. A third especially difficult area for the adolescent is coping with the need to “fit in” and not call attention to oneself in ways that are odd or outside the acceptable norms. Again, the necessity for some assistance may make the teen uncomfortable and lower self-esteem.

Suggestions:

  • Group counseling is especially good for teaching social skills. Since you most likely won’t have enough students with vision impairments to create an entire group, select those with comparable levels of maturity but perhaps different needs in the area of skill development.
  • It is important to have the teen focus on areas in which control has already been established. Encourage the student to make decisions about how necessary assistance is to be provided. Work out situations ahead of time so the student does not have to re-negotiate each request. For example, arrange special seating before classes begin. If a buddy is needed for physical education, make certain that this has been taken care of before the student starts class. Work with the Orientation and Mobility instructor to provide the student with sufficient time to learn new routes required by schedule changes. Role playing is especially helpful since the anticipation of new situations can cause a great deal of anxiety.
  • Since appearance is of such importance during adolescence, provide opportunities for the teen with a vision impairment to talk with a trusted hair stylist, cosmetologist (for girls), and fashion advisor. The teen should be able to dictate personal style, but a good counselor can encourage and facilitate optimum results within these parameters.