Helping your Child Prepare for School
By Dr. Linda Gerra
Communicating the needs of your child to their teachers will ensure a successful school year. The first step is to provide information about your child’s eye condition and unique educational needs.
Use the information and examples provided in this article as a guide for communicating your child’s vision needs to their education team.
Your child’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) is the primary instructor who provides information and guidance to classroom staff related to educating your child. However, as a parent, you know your child best and will also want to communicate the needs specific to your child to ensure they are prepared at the beginning of school. You are also the key member of your child’s educational team, making sure everything is in place.
For your child’s classroom staff, provide:
- an easy-to-understand definition of your child’s eye condition
- a list of possible team members such as Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), Orientation and Mobility Instructor (O&M), Paraprofessional (Para), etc., and a description of their roles.
Following is a detailed list of the role and responsibilities of a TVI. It is important for everyone on the team, and especially important for you the parent, to be aware what the TVI is responsible for.
Role and Responsibilities of a TVI
Prepares reports and assessments
- Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Functional Vision Assessment
- Learning Media Assessment
- Assessment in all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)
- Observes student in variety of settings
- Diagnostic teaching
- Supports school staff and families
- Collects data/evaluates student progress
Shares information on implications of vision loss with:
- classroom and school staff
- family and community as appropriate
- optometrists and ophthalmologists and medical professionals as necessary
Manages student’s educational materials
- Creates/modifies educational materials so they are accessible
- Obtains low vision and braille books/materials
- Maintains materials and equipment
Case management/service coordination
- Attends meetings related to student with visual impairment, including IEP meetings
- Contributes to student’s educational team
- Participates in other district staff meetings (collaboration, transition and professional development)
- Provides guidance and training in the area of visual impairment and blindness
- May function as supervisor to the paraprofessional. Districts may also provide their own supervisor, separate from the TVI
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Check your child’s IEP and be sure that everything is in place – remember the IEP is the roadmap for your child’s education. Your child’s TVI will also communicate aspects of the IEP to the classroom teacher.
Your child’s TVI and classroom teacher should have copies of the IEP
Share IEP and check information about:
- special materials, books, equipment, devices required
- service delivery (frequency and duration of service for vision and other related services as applicable)
- special information related to state assessment (For example, time allowed to take test, and accommodations that are needed)
Preferably, everything should be in place and ready for your child on the first day of school. But we know that this is often not the case.
However, there are many valid reasons for this, such as:
- the TVI might not be assigned yet
- the schedules for the TVI, O&M, etc. have not been set
- the classroom teacher has not been informed that he/she has a student with a visual impairment
As part of your child’s educational team, your positive attitude and sincere interest in creating an appropriate educational experience for your child will be very beneficial. Of course, it might take some gentle prodding from you to ensure that your child has what he/she needs.
Examples of Adaptive Technology and/or Devices that might be listed in an IEP
Monocular or telescope: For reading and copying from the board, watching assemblies, looking at things that are more than 8 feet away (e.g., a ball game, signs across the road, overhead menus).
Magnifier: For reading smaller print on handouts, in textbooks, on food packages, etc.
Audio App for Smartphones, Tablets, MP3 Player: This app enables your child to listen to audible textbooks that they download from the Learning Ally or Bookshare.
JAWS: Screen reader software installed on a computer to help access content that appears on the monitor and navigate the internet.
ZoomText: A fully integrated magnification and reading program installed on a computer to enlarge and enhance everything on the screen.
TI Graphing Calculator: This enlarges the readout on a graphing calculator.
Portable Video Magnifier: A camera that hooks up to a laptop. It swivels to view any visual display or a classroom white board. Can be used with books and other print materials.
Tablet: Enlarges materials, takes a snapshot of something at a distance and then magnifies it, and/or loads auditory books.
Braille Notetaker: Electronic notetakers are small, portable devices for storing information with the use of braille or typewriter keyboards.
The following sample chart is based on information for a child with Albinism. You may want to create a similar chart to use as an effective tool to explain your child’s needs to their teacher. If you are the parent of a young child, you may not yet know all of the educational considerations your child needs. However, as your child advances in school you will be able to learn what your child requires and will have many suggestions/observations such as how close your child holds objects, which eye is the stronger eye, or whether he uses his hands instead of his eyes to explore.
Eye Condition: Albinism
Effects on Vision
Total or partial absence of pigment, causing abnormal optic nerve development
Lenses and tinted lenses may be prescribed
Increased sensitivity to glare
High refractive error
Eye fatigue with close or detailed work
Reduced depth perception
Eye muscle imbalance
Magnification (e.g., hand-held magnifier, electronic magnifier, screen enlargement software, monocular/telescope, etc.)
High contrast materials
May need to use sunglasses, visors, or hats outdoors and indoors as well
Lighting from behind
Line markers, templates, placeholders
Prosthetic, iris occluding contact lenses
Considerations for Playground, Gym and Field Trips
Orientation of indoor and outdoor spaces should be conducted by the O&M instructor and/or the TVI. However, you can also follow up to ensure that this has been done. If the school and playground are open, you can practice with your child by located the important rooms/areas.
Parents and their children can often visit the school and playground before the beginning of school:
- Tour the playground in its entirety. Point out to your child their classroom, restrooms, school office and lunch room are located.
- When touring the grounds with school staff, ask them to allow your child the opportunity to play/explore by himself or herself to become familiar with the playground layout. It is very important that they try the climbing structures.
- Ask the teacher to watch for signs that the student is lost or unable to find friends to interact with during playground time.
- The TVI & O&M instructor will check out both indoor and outdoor areas, and make accommodations such as using neon duct tape to create a visual aid for areas of low contrast. It is their responsibility to orient the student to both areas.
- Remind the classroom and Physical Education (PE) teachers that special considerations should be made for student’s vision needs in order to participate in PE classes.
Remember: Even if you child’s school does not have a separate adaptive PE class, gym class is still mandated and your child must be included. To ensure your child is participating, you should check with their PE teacher.
- To further help PE teachers, there are training materials you can share with them about working with children with vision impairment developed by Dr. Lauren Lieberman. These instructional inclusion video can be found at the Campabilities site.
- Remind the teacher to inform the destination/venue that there is a student with a visual impairment in the group.
Learning is ongoing for you, your child and his or her educational team. Communication is key, and you are vital in making sure all the components are working together. However, you are not alone. Lighthouse Guild is here to help. Call our Family Support Program at 800-562-6265 or email.
Source: National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH)