Instructing Physical Activity For Children Who Are Blind

Posted by: Elizabeth S. McDuffie

Instructing Physical Activity for Children Who Are Blind

The importance of physical activity is multi faceted; from developing motor skills, to maintaining a healthy body, to promoting a lifetime of wellness. It is however well documented, that children with visual impairments often experience some delay in motor skills and in reaching developmental milestones, especially in locomotion and mobility. Because blind children have the same physical capacity as their sited peers, it is paramount that we provide opportunities for them to reach their full physical potential, as they are often not given that opportunity. The purpose of this page is to provide information on two pedagogical techniques to enhance the physical lives of visually impaired students.

The first technique is called Physical Guidance and is exactly as its name indicates. While seeing students can rely on verbal cues, as they can see a modeled action, it is useful for visually impaired students to be guided in the desired motion to increase their understanding of the movement. This involves physically guiding the student’s body in the target movement and does require that you touch them in order to do so. For example, when teaching a student to swim, physically move their arms in the correct way so they don’t only have oral clues to rely on.

The second is called Tactile Modeling and is just the opposite of the Physical Guidance. Instead of touching the student, allow them to touch you as you demonstrate the target movement. To use the example of swimming again, allow the student to feel your arm as you demonstrate the arm stroke in the forward crawl for example, while giving them oral instructions as well.

Because both of these instructional techniques are physically intimate to some degree, make sure that you tell the student what you are doing before you do it. Also make sure the student is feeling comfortable, if they are finicky about being touched don’t push it. Likewise, document the lesson in your IEP or notebook just incase of any misinterpretations by the student or anyone else.

The only drawback to these instructional techniques is that they require one on one instruction. Therefore, if the student is mainstreamed it may be best to pull them aside in gym class or have whatever kind of trained support assist you in either occupying the rest of the class or working with the student one on one.

One idea for a physical activity that would include all students blind and seeing would be to play Goalball a popular sport for the blind. Not only would it be all inclusive but requires players to use senses they are otherwise unaccustomed to relying on. To play would require you to get some extra inexpensive equipment, most importantly a basket ball size ball with bells in it (a Goalball) and six pairs of blackened out goggles. You will also need some rope or raised marker so that the players can feel the parameters of the goalball court and the half court line. The object of the game more or less, is to roll the ball past the other team into their goal.

To get a better description of Goalball plus rules and other ideas for including exceptional students in physical activities, visit:




M. O’Connell, L. J. Lieberman, S. Peterson, 2006 The use of tactile modeling and physical guidance as instructional strategies in physical activity for children who are blind. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness, August