The Visually Impaired and Blind Child: 12 Preparation Tips for Your Initial School Meeting

Your child may have been receiving Early Intervention services for his/her first three years of life or may be newly visually impaired or blind; whatever the case you will want to maximize your initial contact with your school district and new team members. An informed and prepared team approach with consistent open communication will help to optimize your child’s overall inclusion in his/her educational setting. Parent advocacy is essential and should advocacy not be your forte’, then seek support from a family member or person that is a strong advocate. Be sure to emphasize your child’s individualized low vision or blindness curriculum accommodations, school/classroom environmental modifications and specialized services and materials to assure inclusion and a meaningful educational experience for your visually impaired or blind child.Here are some simple tips to get the ball rolling even before your child actually starts his/her school year.INITIAL SCHOOL CONTACT:1. Contact your school district in advance (preferably 6 months to a year).2. Schedule a visit and introduce your child and yourself to school representatives.3. Consider attending your first visit along with a family member or advocate that is familiar with your child’s specific visual diagnosis, developmental progress and special services received to date.4. Be sure to bring along a pen/pad to jot down important information.5. Identify specific Child Study Team or school team members responsible for addressing and coordinating the educational assessments and specific services for your child.6. Obtain contact numbers for Child Study Team/school representatives responsible for coordinating services for your child including: school address, phone/FAX numbers, e-mail addresses and official school website.7. Be sure to identify the best time of the day to contact Child Study Team/school personnel.REPORTS: Provide your school district with your child’s most up-to-date medical, Pediatric Ophthalmologist (eye-health report), Pediatric Optometrist (low vision evaluation), early intervention and developmental reports. Be prepared to advocate for your child’s specific visual/low vision or blindness/educational needs. Share Early Intervention summaries that specifically pinpoint your child’s areas of strengths and developmental needs. Be prepared to discuss specific low vision techniques, materials and strategies that have assisted in optimizing your child’s developmental progress in the home setting.8. Eye Reports and low vision evaluations should include your child’s specific visual diagnosis, visual acuity and visual fields. Specific recommendations might include: glasses, sunglasses, low vision devices, glare sensitivity, patching, visual training, lighting, contrast or any other specific recommendations or considerations as recommended by your eye professional.9. Early Intervention program reports: Provide up-to-date Family Service Plan (I.F.S.P.) summaries and reports including specialized therapy (Speech, Occupational or Physical Therapy), Social Worker and Assistive Technology reports in addition to any other relative information through Early Intervention.10. A Functional Vision Assessment written by your Certified Teacher of the Blind and Partially Sighted should be up-to-date and include: recent functional vision testing, developmental/educational strategies to optimize low vision/blindness skills, specialized material accommodations, environmental modifications, contrast along with color and lighting recommendations that have been successful in maximizing your child’s residual or low vision in the home and alternative Early Intervention setting. Your Functional Vision Assessment should also include things to avoid such as: bright/direct light for light sensitivity, avoidance of blinking lights due to any history of seizure activity or any other consideration as noted by your Pediatric Ophthalmologist (eye doctor), Pediatric Optometrist (low vision doctor) or Teacher of the Blind. Your child’s functional vision skills must be re-assessed once he enters his/her educational setting in order to appropriately re-evaluate low vision/blindness educational needs, address environmental modification, curriculum accommodations, safety issues and adaptive material needs in his/her new educational setting.11. Assistive Technology reports and recommendations should include: current assistive devices, adaptive resources (accessibility switches), software used in the home setting and assessment needs for future devices and resources for the school setting.12. An Orientation & Mobility Report should be provided and outline current travel techniques, methods and materials being taught and encouraged during mobility lessons. This report should also present an outline of skills and techniques that your child has mastered to date along with an outline of skills your child is currently developing.