Reading acquisition in pupils with visual impairments in mainstream education
Sammanfattning: This thesis is based on five empirical studies of pupils with visual impairments, their reading ability and processes of reading acquisition within the framework of mainstream education in comprehensive schools. The aim of the thesis is to increase our understanding and knowledge of reading acquisition in pupils with visual impairments in mainstream education. A further aim is to find factors, which influence reading acquisition from an individual, as well as an environmental, perspective. Developmental theories regarding the individuals' possibilities to acquire an optimal development in interaction with their environment offer a theoretical framework for the thesis.Different research designs, descriptive and explorative, have been used to fulfil the purpose. The studies have revealed a heterogeneous group of readers with visual impairments bearing in mind functional visual ability, reading media (print and braille) and reading ability. As a result of these studies, it was possible to divide the readers into three groups with regard to reading performance. About one quarter of the population was average or high achievers, another quarter extremely low achievers, irrespective of visual acuity, reading media or reading devices. In most cases, additional impairments, intellectual impairment or language problems caused low achievement. The largest group, about half of the population, consisted of readers who were able to read but demonstrated difficulties in other ways. Visual acuity and reading media varied greatly in this group. There were uncertain readers, readers with low reading rate but good comprehension, readers with less stamina and readers who did not use their reading ability except for schoolwork. The pupils were well equipped with optical devices, lighting and special desks but seldom used the facilities for reading. In general, the pupils with visual impairments read less compared with their sighted peers. Nor were they exposed to text in natural situations in society, which decrease their incidental reading training. Consequently, a large group of readers with visual impairments need an adapted reading program in order to stimulate reading from the start and to use their potential ability. Competence in the school and home environment is necessary for compensating lack of training and preventing the visual impairment being the reason for reading difficulties.Reading disabilities due to biological factors were significant for a smaller group. Visual impairment as a reading handicap is, in this thesis, identified when a person, able to read, does not have access to the text in an appropriate reading medium or format, reading and writing tools are missing or reading must be performed in a badly adapted environment. Increased knowledge and effective environmental measures could reduce a reading handicap caused by a visual impairment for a larger group of children and young people.
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