Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Back to School for Middle School and High School Students

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS intern

Middle school introduces not only new subject matter, but an entirely new process of learning. These changes, which can be demanding for all pupils, can pose additional challenges for those with visual impairment. Most students have spent the early school years primarily with one teacher in a single classroom. In secondary school the campus and structure can change radically. The following tips, from the Family Connect website, may make the move easier for you and your child:

-Visit the school in advance. If your child has an orientation and mobility instructor, this will likely be a priority. It’s often best to do this more than once to ensure your child knows how to get around.

-Review the class schedule and meet the teachers. Then, drop by the school at the open house or simply before school starts so that the child can put an identity to teacher’s names. This will take away an uncomfortable first day of introductions amid the pandemonium of all the other students.

In the upper grades, schoolwork becomes increasingly complicated, with classes in different subject areas and most likely a different teacher for each subject.  Reading and other materials are lengthier and more complex. In addition, subjects often contain more math and science symbols, graphs, and charts with strictly visual components that need to be adapted for someone who is blind or has low vision. Although teachers need to teach the concepts, your child’s TVI needs to work closely with them to make sure your child will have access to the same materials, classroom activities, and information their classmates do at the same time. It may be helpful for the TVI to introduce the child to the materials and concepts that may be presented visually.
For more details, read the Family Connect pieces on 5 Tips to Help Your Child Who Is Visually Impaired Move Up to Middle or High School and Accessing Academic Classes for Teenagers.

Additional Resources Available to Parents and Children
Among the resources that can be accessed throughout the school year are:
Bookshare®, a free, federally funded library of ebooks designed to empower students to read in ways that work for them with specialized ebooks in audio, audio with highlighted text, large font, and braille. Paired with popular reading tools, reading is easier.
Learning Ally, an organization that provides books and services for people who are blind and visually impaired among other disabilities.
Tele-Support Groups from Lighthouse Guild, offer a national network and support services for parents who are helping their children with visual impairments, along with teenagers who are becoming independent.
– The Perkins School for the Blind offers Quick study tips for students with visual impairments, which can be downloaded, to help students prepare for college.
-Education information from Wonder Baby, an interactive website for families with children who are visually impaired.