This Mattered to Me
"Problems in the Construction of Reality in Congenitally Blind Children," by S. Santin & J. Nesker-Simmons, originally published in 1977 in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Volume 71, pp. 425-429
Print edition page number(s) 312-314
The series editor of "This Mattered to Me" is Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent of the California School for the Blind.
As a beginning teacher of students with visual impairments in the late 1970s, I read with great interest the JVIB article entitled "Problems in the Construction of Reality in Congenitally Blind Children." In my formative years as an educator, I was hungry for new and innovative information. I looked forward to reading articles in JVIB that helped to focus my instruction with my students. This article seemed to validate what I learned in my teacher preparation program, and it strengthened my belief that students with visual impairments develop and learn about their world differently from their sighted peers.
The notion of differences in development portrayed in the article by Santin and Nesker-Simmons was extraordinarily ahead of its time. At the time the article was published, the idea of viewing students with visual impairments as having unique educational needs and individual differences was not an accepted trend. Most professionals in the field of educating students with visual impairments believed that students who were blind developed just like their sighted age-mates, except that they had visual impairments. It was not until 1984 that David H. Warren published his seminal work, Blindness and Early Childhood Development, which documented the developmental differences in children who were blind, and this concept became widely accepted.
This article also provided a springboard for undertaking research that led me to examine the social development of students with visual impairments. The theoretical constructs provided by the authors made logical sense, and their theories helped me to understand how experienced-based learning provides a sense of reality and meaning for students with visual impairments. The authors demonstrated that the influence of early and varied hands-on educational experiences allowed the children with visual impairments that they studied to interact and engage with others, make meaning of language, and integrate basic concepts into a desire to explore and reach out to others.
In today's educational arena, there is continued emphasis on students' acquisition of academic skills, as well as the need for teachers to integrate the expanded core curriculum into instruction for students who are blind or visually impaired. The information presented in this article reinforces these concepts. As such, it is a seminal article that should be read by those in teacher preparation and doctoral studies programs. Practicing teachers of students with visual impairments and families of blind children should also be given the opportunity to read this article. It will assist them in their understanding of how blind children learn and acquire essential skills for success in later life.
As I reread Santin and Nesker-Simmons' article in order to prepare this essay, I realized that I needed to include this pertinent article in my syllabus for a course on issues in visual impairment. Also, this article would be an excellent one to share with colleagues for a lunchtime journal-discussion group. Although this article is almost 35 years old, it is still timely and relevant, and a must for all JVIB readers.
On the web
The article relating to this commentary is available free to subscribers at JVIB Online at <www.jvib.org>.
Sharon Zell Sacks, Ph.D., director, Curriculum, Assessment, and Staff Development, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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