Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Getting Ready to go Back to School

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern:

As children and parents prepare for the school year, taking some practical steps can ease the transition. Whether students are attending elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, advance planning may quell some of the jitters students feel, especially those with visual disabilities, on the first day and beyond. Nearly three percent of children younger than 18 years are blind or have low vision, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These figures indicate that significant numbers of children in classrooms have trouble with their vision. Following are some pointers that can help students with vision challenges succeed this school year.

The Early School Years

Because the percentage of children with blindness or visual impairment is low, few teachers may be trained to accommodate their needs. “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.” As a result, it is incumbent on parents to become early advocates for their child. Here are suggestions for parents to help prepare children for the first day of school, provided by Wendy Devitt, a teacher of the visually impaired in the New York City Public Schools, and Margaret Walters, director of Outreach and Support Programs at Lighthouse Guild in an article in Able News:

-Meet with a teacher either alone or with the child before the school year begins, especially if there are orientation issues;
-Share a child’s strengths. It will help empower teachers to let them know some strengths, such as what compensatory skills they have.
-Be specific about the child’s needs, such as what lighting conditions, seating arrangements, and modifications are beneficial. Communication with the teacher and staff is key.
-Ask the teacher to say the child’s name when addressing him or her rather than pointing and asking the student.
To read the complete article, visit the website for the Able News September 2022 edition here or the reprint of the piece in Our Town here on Back to School for Visually-Impaired Children.

Additional recommendations, from Paths to Literacy, help to ensure that a child benefits from resources available to them. For example, be sure that your child has been referred for vision services, as appropriate. This can include the involvement of Early Intervention Specialists, Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs), and Orientation and Mobility Specialists.  Contact your state agency for the blind to find out what services are available in your area. The engagement of a team of professionals can provide information and resources, as well as support to you and your family. These recommendations and additional information are included in a Paths to Literacy article on 10 Tips for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments.