Early years foundation stage

Early Years is for babies and children from birth to 5 years old.  Here are some examples of the support we offer to this age group:

  • we support children from birth after diagnosis with a vision impairment and with or without additional needs
  • visits to the home, nursery, preschool and EYFS reception year visits at school (mainstream and special school settings)
  • working with parents and carers to help a child develop specific skills, such as helping a blind child to learn to play using their other senses or providing advice and information for parents/carers

About the early years foundation stage (EYFS) framework

There are 4 areas that are the basis for the EYFS framework. We aim to follow and support these very important principles:

  • every baby or child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
  • babies and children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
  • babies and children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
  • babies and children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all babies and children in early years provision, including babies and children with special educational needs and disabilities

How we work

After a request is made for our support, we will talk with you about your baby/child’s diagnosed vision impairment.  It is important that we learn as much as we can about your child’s developmental journey so far.  Our trained Qualified Teachers of Vision Impairment (QTVIs) will explain the support we can offer.   

Request a referral with the Vision Support Service

How we guide and support development and learning 

We use the Developmental Journal for babies and children with vision impairment (DJVI) which is an internationally recognised, early intervention programme developed by Great Ormond Street Hospital Developmental Vision team.  

Developmental Journal Visual Impairment

This helps us build up a full understanding of your child's vision and needs. It means we can support parents with activities that are designed to improve outcomes and help your child reach early learning goals.

What vision impairment means for your child 

Children and babies with a vision impairment will develop in much the same way as other children, although there may be differences in the speed and order in which skills develop. 

The difficulties some children and babies have with a vision impairment are not always obvious. 

Different eye conditions create different ways of seeing:

  • some make it difficult to see at a distance
  • others with seeing things that are near
  • some affect what your child can see clearly
  • others what they can see in their wider field of vision
  • some mean that children don’t see in colour

Different vision conditions have a variety of effects with different implications for each child. It’s important to remember that your child is unique and that other children with the same eye condition may appear to see or can use their vision in a different way.

Learning through play  

The play needs of a baby or child who is blind or vision impaired are essentially the same as those of a fully sighted child and follow the same developmental pattern, even where development is delayed.

Toys and games 

Toys do not have to be expensive or specifically purchased for children with a vision impairment.  We try to avoid toys made from plastic as many plastic objects are similar in many ways. They are often all smooth, with little or no variety in texture and have no smell or taste.  

Almost everyone will use plastic objects in their everyday lives.  A baby or child gains experience of these objects for example, from handling bottles, cups, toys, a toothbrush and rattles. By offering a whole range of objects, which are not plastic, we increase the opportunities for a child to explore and learn.  

Each child or baby develops in their own unique way.  Some children with a vision impairment may play with language rather than objects and use role-play.

Learning to listen  

Babies and children with a vision impairment will depend on their ability to use other senses such as their listening skills. They may need extra help to develop these skills efficiently by:

  • learning to tell which sounds are associated with which activities or events
  • learning to tell which sounds are in their environment 
  • understanding what they have heard
  • being able to tell where a sound is coming from and identifying what the sound is

Young children and babies love music and rhythmic motion. Play music and use gentle movements with your child, bounce and sway them on your knee which will encourage them to listen to the rhythm. Choose a variety of shapes and materials that produce different sounds. These offer instant reward for effort and their entertainment value for a child is immense.

Learning to touch and feel 

It is important to offer as wide a range of tactile and sensory experiences as possible right from the beginning.  We try to encourage babies and children with vision impairment to play with and explore toys and objects with a variety of shapes, textures, weight and colour.   

Encouraging movement  

Touch is not just confined to hands. From the beginning babies learn through touch and enjoy close handling, such as rough and tumble, tickling and blowing raspberries, which help them become aware of their whole body movements and to learn to tolerate different positions, such as being placed on their stomach. If they are slow to roll or crawl, brightly-lit and sound-producing toys will provide motivation, reinforced by an encouraging voice.  

Learning to look 

Through sensory play we can demonstrate or offer suggestions to help your baby or child learn to use their vision.  A child learns about their body, the environment they are in and other people by having direct experiences.  Also using their senses by looking, listening, tasting, moving, feeling and making sounds or words.  Through play we can bring or suggest sensory based activities and games that help babies/children explore.  In doing this your baby or child can develop their experience of: 

  • moving their eyes, head, hands, feet and body  

  • fixing or focussing on an object  

  • fixing or focussing on an object and following its movement  

  • looking at and touching objects  

  • understanding how to make something happen again - through curiosity and having fun  

Principal Advisory Teacher (Vision Support Service)

Name: Christopher Marshall
Email: christopher.marshall@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk
Tel: 01305 228300
Full contact details