Compensatory Skills

A young boy tries on a hat and explores a pair of sunglasses.
A young boy tries on a hat and explores a pair of sunglasses.

Compensatory skills are skills that allow students with vision impairments to access their education curriculum. This typical includes the use of print, braille, tactile maps, tactile symbols, audio recordings of books or podcasts, and use of screen readers to access information on computers and the internet. Other skills include study skills, organizational skills, and concept development.

Most children at the earliest stages simply be exploring various literacy materials such as books or experience stories using large print, tactile or object symbols, or listening to stories, songs, and rhymes that are recorded.

As the child begins to be able to participate in constructive play activities learning how to sort a variety of objects, or gather materials to use for an activity are a way to begin the development of organizational skills.


Concept development is one of the primary features of Active Learning. Exploring and experimenting with objects in the environment are the chief what a child begins to develop concepts of the world around him. Activities that allow for independent exploration of objects and materials can be conducted utilizing most of the Active Learning equipment. The Resonance Board is a great piece of equipment for a child to use while doing this type of exploration. Any movement the child makes or any sound or vibration the object makes is enhance by the Resonance Board. So instead of spending “down time” in a bean bag or wheelchair, let the child stretch out on a Resonance Board and explore a variety of everyday objects. She will learn concepts like hard, soft, metal, wood, heavy, light, flexible, shiny, cold, warm, and many, many more.

Activity Ideas

Here are some ideas for ways to work on compensatory skills using an Active Learning approach.

    • Talk a walk outside and collect objects; then make an experience book with these objects.
    • Fill an old purse with objects and tell a story about what you can find in the purse as the child takes items out of the purse.
    • Help child place items from a his backpack back inside in specific places like zipper pouch on the front, inside the main compartment, attached with clip to the strap, etc.
    • Play movement games associated with songs (Itsy, Bitsy Spider) or rhymes (e.g., Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, To see a fine lady upon a white horse; Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, And she shall have music wherever she goes.).
    • Explore books with braille labels.
    • Find labels on child’s chair, cubby, backpack, cane, and other possessions.
    • Play with tactile maps.
    • Use tactile or object symbols to introduce next activities or for choice-making.
    • Attach button switches with timers marked with different colors or with different tactile symbols to various auditory material like music, environmental sounds, silly sounds, animal sounds and let the child explore them. 
    • Put materials away in their place after using them.
    • Sort eating utensils into containers – knife, fork, spoon.
    • Play with 1000 different common objects on a Resonance Board or while using other perceptualizing equipment.

Independent Exploration on a Resonance Board

This video shows a young boy during independent play time. He is positioned on a Resonance Board in the Kitchen Center and is exploring objects he takes from a large bin. Notice how he explores using his fingers, mouth and foot. Watch how he compares objects with each other. These comparisons help him to form concepts about these objects such as size, shapes, weight, texture, temperature, density, flexibility, taste, and smell. Later when the child encounters these objects in activities, recognition of these objects will be much easier.  The exploration skills and sensitivity in his hands may also help him to acquire the ability to read braille or at least identify functionally braille symbols (restroom, elevator buttons, etc.). He also is precise in where he places the objects he explores. Notice how he keeps the bowl behind him, places some objects near his mouth, and returns some objects to the bin after exploring them.


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