Going back to school is an exciting time full of new beginnings. This is an opportunity to develop open communication with teachers, especially for parents of a child with a visual impairment.
Visual disabilities are considered a low incidence condition. This may be the first time a teacher has ever had an individual in their class with an eye condition.
There are many myths and stereotypes associated with visual disabilities and blindness. People think that if you are labeled visually impaired you can’t see anything. This isn’t the case.
The eyes are connected to the brain, which is a complex organ. Because of this there are a wide range of eye conditions. Each has a different impact on a person’s visual functioning and is unique to the individual.
This is an important sentiment to express to teachers while educating them about a child’s visual functioning. Some children have undergone many eye surgeries to preserve the sight they have.
They may be too young to articulate this. Talking about their visual impairment might be a sensitive subject for them to express. It’s important to remember that some impairments may be more noticeable to an untrained person.
Sharing a Child’s Strengths
To help empower teachers some of a child’s strengths should be shared, such as what compensatory skills they have. It’s greatly beneficial to meet with a teacher either alone or with the child in the classroom before the school year begins – especially if there are orientation issues.
A parent knows their child better than anyone else and should be specific about what lighting conditions, seating arrangements and modifications are beneficial to the child. Having communication with the teacher and staff is key.
Friendly reminders such as the teacher saying the child’s name when addressing him or her rather than pointing and asking the student in private if they are able to access something rather than in front of the class are simple and effective strategies.
Learning about people who are blind and visually impaired is also a helpful tool that can create open dialogue. It’s likely that a visually impaired child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The child may receive services from a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI).
The TVI will also act as a support for the teacher. They will provide the Extended Core Curriculum that’s specific to students with visual impairments.
Expand Your Support Network
A strong support network can be vital in helping families through times of transition. There is strength in numbers, and opportunities to join with other parents who share similar concerns you may have about returning to school.
For many parents of children with disabilities, a diagnosis-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support.
Lighthouse Guild’s National Tele-Support Network continues to be an emotional and social lifeline for many parents of children with vision loss, teens, young adults, and adults from all over the country.
Participants in the tele-support groups share everyday struggles, offer advice on coping with vision loss and stay informed about helpful resources. All while feeling supported by others going through similar experiences. Parenting a child with vision impairment can feel isolating, and navigating a world filled with new obstacles can be overwhelming, but no one has to face it alone.
Wendy Devitt is a teacher of the visually impaired in the New York City Public Schools and Margaret Walters is director of Outreach & Support Programs at Lighthouse Guild.
Reprinted with permission from Able News.
A parent knows their child better than anyone else and should be specific about what lighting conditions, seating arrangements and modifications are beneficial.