Parents and teachers of teens with visual impairments and multiple disabilities, think back to your 15 year old self. If you’re like most, you cared a great deal about your peers. You cared what they thought about you, you wanted to emulate them, and you desired to fit in. For this reason, if you were told to stop what you were doing because your friends found it unpleasant, there’s a good chance you would discontinue the behavior.
Fast forward to today. Most teens, whether sighted, blind, or visually impaired, and with or without accompanying disabilities, care about their peers. Therefore, teachers can train students or peers to provide honest, assertive, helpful, and well-intentioned feedback to teens with visual impairments.
Consider a story within the book Instruction of Students with Severe Disabilities by Martha Snell and Fredda Brown. A group of teens was sitting at the lunch table when a teen with multiple disabilities wiped her sticky fingers on another gal’s hair. Instead of saying “Jen, please don’t wipe messy fingers on me”, the teens stood up, gathered their lunch trays, and ate elsewhere. Jen was left eating by herself.
Not knowing how to correct Jen or if it was okay to correct Jen, the girls left her by herself. Had the teens been given the tools and knowledge to give Jen honest, direct feedback, she could have learned healthy boundaries, proper social skills, and maintained buddies to eat with at the table.
Provide assertiveness training to peers of students who are blind or visually impaired with or without multiple disabilities. Utilize this lesson series when teaching assertive behavior. The non-disabled peers need to know how to be direct with accompanying respect and kindness; they need to know they’re giving the individual a gift by being honest; and they need to understand the value of the knowledge to the individual.
Information on social skills, encouragement in good social skills, and feedback on poor social skills from non-disabled peers can be of great wealth to a teen with multiple disabilities. It’s a natural reinforcement of good social skills, a motivating tool for growth in social skills, and it is a good example of proper and helpful assertive behavior.
Help prepare your teen to be the helper, check out this advice in Preparing a Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired with Multiple Disabilities for Work: Provide the Teen with Opportunities to Be the Helper.