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How I Taught Tai Chi to Visually Impaired People

Editor's note: if you are a Tai Chi or Qigong instructor who has taught visually impaired people, Dr. Suzanne Droleskey would like to exchange information and thoughts with you. Please contact her at sdroleskey@tamu.edu.
 
December 15, 2014 -
How can you teach the Tai Chi movements, and the flow of them, to people who are visually impaired or even totally blind? While there is some information available about teaching physical skills to the blind, it is mostly focused on teaching children, not adults.

In an article recently published by Texas A&M University, Dr. Droleskey, an ATCQA Certified Instructor (Level-II) who teaches Tai Chi at the University, tells her stories of how she used Tai Chi to help 2 visually impaired students gain balance, confidence and, in one of the cases, even a job.

Over 3 years ago, she taught a substitute teacher who is visually impaired. As an educator, this gentleman guided Dr. Droleskey about what he needed from an instructor.  Essentially, they experimented together on teaching techniques, some of which were fumbles and some successes.  Using Tai Chi to calm himself before an important job interview, he was able to secure a full time teaching position.

Looking back, Dr. Droleskey thinks the experience of teaching that visually impaired student has made her a better instructor for all her students by, among many things, improving her ability to explain moves verbally while demonstrating them, and thinking creatively about new methodologies to maximize what each student could do instead of focusing on what they couldn't do.

When the fall 2014 school semester started, a bigger challenge came to Dr. Droleskey: this time, an undergraduate student who is totally blind, Kaitlyn, registered for her Tai Chi class. The visually impaired gentleman could see shapes and lights. But Kaitlyn cannot see anything.

Yet the student and the teacher figured out a unique way for teaching and learning:  Kaitlyn holding onto Dr. Droleskey's arms, hands, or legs and feeling the ways she moved and shifted her weight. The article published by Texas A&M University gave detailed account of how Kaitlyn learned the Simplified Yang 24 Form and the flow.

Gradually, Kaitlyn got so good at learning the positions and the Form, she was made a group practice leader at one point.

Travis, who is studying to become a physician and joined Kaitlyn's group, theorized that Kaitlyn's condition caused her to have to focus more on where her body is in space and that this was actually helping her to have better concentration when she played Tai Chi.
(Photo: Kaitlyn learning Tai Chi from Dr. Droleskey)

To Dr. Droleskey, Kaitlyn is not the only one benefiting from this process. As the instructor, she had a deeper lesson in how one person chose to respond to a situation that threw her life radically out of balance.  We all face struggles in our lives and have to find ways to bring ourselves back into harmony.  She only hopes she can face those on her pathway with as much grace and strength as Kaitlyn.  

To read the entire article by Dr. Droleskey, please go to http://transform.tamu.edu/news/waiting-kaitlyn#sthash.1H0Bmt6W.dpuf.

 

 


 
 

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