Sensory Efficiency Skills

Photo shows a young student looking at a block using a CCTV.

Logo with a magnifying glass.Sensory efficiency skills refer to “how well an individual receives, transmits, and interprets information about people, objects, and events in the environment, using all sensory systems” (Smith, 2014, p. 117).
Sensory systems include:

External Senses

  • Distance (Vision, Hearing, Smell)
  • Contact (Taste, Touch)

Internal Senses

  • Proprioception (body position)
  • Vestibular (balance and movement)
  • Interoception (internal body sensations)

Sensory efficiency skills are important for both accessing the core curriculum as well as for accessing all other areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). These skills are also important in fostering communication between learners and their peers (Anthony, 2017).

On this page:

Check out the Sensory Efficiency Skills section in #Outreaching - the blog of the PRCVI Outreach Team.

Connections to the BC Curriculum – Core Competencies

The British Columbia K-12 Curriculum emphasizes Communication as a core competency. Communicating encompasses “the set of abilities that people use to impart and exchange information, experiences, and ideas; to explore the world around them; and to understand and effectively use communication forms, strategies, and technologies.” The curriculum identifies three facets of communicating:

  • Connecting and engaging with others
  • Focusing on intent and purpose
  • Acquiring and presenting information

Sensory Efficiency Skills – Students with Visual Impairments

Students with visual impairments need to use all available senses to learn about and understand the world around them. These skills allow students to effectively access the curriculum, learn new concepts, and communicate with others.  

Examples of Sensory Efficiency Skills

  • Using listening skills to identify sounds and smells that indicate activities occurring nearby.
  • Can use a low vision aid to examine small objects, such as a picture in a book, or objects at a distance, such as a sign.
  • Uses touch, hearing, and vision simultaneously to successfully complete a task.

Resources to Support Instruction

PRCVI Library Catalogue

American Printing House for the Blind (2008). Envision I: Monocular trial kit. Louisville, KY: APH [Resource Kit]
Lessons and activities for introducing the use of the monocular for distance viewing. Kit contains learning materials, teacher's guide, and a selection of monoculars. 
American Printing House for the Blind (2008). Envision II: Magnifier trial kit. Louisville, KY: APH [Resource Kit]
Lessons and activities for introducing the use of handheld magnifiers for near tasks. Kit contains learning materials, teacher's guide, and a selection of handheld magnifiers. 
American Printing House for the Blind (2014). Sound ball - Techno beat (red). Louisville, KY: APH [Device]
Example of one of the many pieces of auditory play equipment in the PRCVI catalogue. Use the "ball games" descriptor for a complete set of adapted play balls. 
Barclay, L.A. (Ed.) (2012). Learning to listen, listening to learn: Teaching listening skills to students with visual impairments. New York, NY: AFB Press. [Professional Text]
Topics include the development of listening skills, implications for core and ECC instruction, and considerations for students with unique needs. 
D'Andrea, F. M., & Farrenkopf, C. (Eds.) (2000). Looking to learn: Promoting literacy for students with low vision. New York, NY: AFB Press. 
Literacy-focused text with strategies and tips for integrating the use of low vision devices into reading and writing instruction. 
PRCVI. (2008). Eschenbach magnifier/monocular trial set. Vancouver, BC: PRCVI
Set of Eschenbach low vision devices that represent a cross-section of devices available from PRCVI. 
PRCVI. (2020). Lightbox stories for students with visual impairments and additional exceptionalities.
While primarily designed as literacy-based programming for students with visual impairments and additional disabilities, the strategies in this presentation can also be used to working on skills such as tracking and maintaining visual attention.
Rofe, A. (2006). The sensational alphabetSignal Mountain, TN: Waldenhouse Publishers.
Example of one of the many dual media (print & braille) sound books available in the PRCVI catalogue. Use the "sound books" descriptor for a complete set of available titles.
Scott, M. (2019). Fingerwalks. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]
This resource from APH features textured mazes help develop tactile discrimination and tracking skills and can also promote relaxation and clam. The 16 mazes include a variety of difficulties and are steeped in tradition, including historical notes and resources for further study.
Skil-Care. (2020). Sensory Gel Maze. [Equipment]
These sensory pads can be used in conjunction with a student’s lightbox program for reducing anxiety and boredom, hand-eye coordination, finger isolation, and mid-line work.


Web-Based Resources

Baltisberger, S., & Cowan, C . (2017). Fun activities for teaching kids to use monocular telescopes on a low budget. Retrieved from
Activities and tips for teaching monocular use, including modifications to visual targets, and making a bird feeder for a fun outdoor target!
Children's Low Vision Project of British Columbia
The CLVP team evaluates each student, prescribes and dispenses low vision devices, and makes recommendations to support the student, their family, teachers, schools, and other professionals serving the student. 
Floyd, J. (2017, July 25). Listening skills. Paths to Literacy. Retrieved from
Page from Paths to Literacy with tips for teaching active listening skills to students from K-12. 
Paths to Literacy. (n.d.). Playing with sound: the world of digial journalism. Retrieved from
This digital journalism course was designed for students attending specialized schools for the blind but could be adapted to use with any student. The course uses the topic of journalism to teach skills such as using audio equipment, listening to information, presenting information (public speaking, articulation), and other skills related to various areas within the ECC.
Wittich, W., Jarry, J., Morrice, E., & Johnson, A. (2018). Effectiveness of the apple iPad as a spot-reading magnifierOptometry and Vision Science95(9), 704.
Study with a sample of adults with low vision showing that the iPad and a handheld video magnifier are functionally equivalent for certain near tasks. (n.d.). Mazes. Retrieved from
Blackline Masters for low vision devices - thick lined mazes for tracking and video magnifier skill refinement. Free preschool and kindergarten maze worksheets, free downloads


Anthony, T. A. (2017) Sensory efficiency: Assessment and instructional strategies. In M. C Holbrook, C. Kamei-Hannan, & T. McCarthy (Eds.). Foundations of education. Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youth with Visual Impairments, 3rd ed. (pp. 574-610). New York, NY: AFB Press.  

Smith, M. (2014). Sensory Efficiency. In Allman, C. B., Lewis, S., & Spungin, S. J. (eds.). ECC essentials: Teaching the expanded core curriculum to students with visual impairments (pp. 117-186). New York, NY: AFB Press.

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