When your child starts school for the first time parents often have a a lot of questions. When your child has a vision impairment navigating it all can feel overwhelming! PVI parent Clare lists some handy ideas and suggestions for parents whose blind, low vision, deaf-blind or vision impaired child is first starting school. Clare has recently successfully been through this transition process and she reflects on what worked well for her daughter in the hope that other parents will find this useful too.
- Visit the the school with your child as much as you can to build confidence and familiarity with the school environment, playground, and to meet the teachers. Knowing who your child’s main teacher is, who their teacher aide is, who the school principal is, and getting to know them (and vice versa) before school starts makes a big difference.
- Your child may meet someone else during these school transition visits, and build an early relationship. Being familiar with some of the other children makes the first day/weeks a lot easier.
- Involve the teacher and teacher aide in helping other children understand your child’s needs. This could be something like making a book about your child, and could be created in the same way the readers are (large font, braille, white space, clear single images). The book would include things like: I like swimming; I like my cat; My eyes work differently; I am learning braille; I need to wear dark glasses.
- Get an Individual Education Plan (IEP) done in first few months of school attendance. Meeting with her teacher, teacher aide, SENCO and RTV was a good opportunity to reflect on the transition, discuss areas of focus/learning and give feedback/ reminders on your child’s needs e.g. using verbal queues so they feel included.
- Include other children in activities aimed to help. For example, maybe choose a friend to join in with the teacher aide in braille learning (just tactile games). This was a novelty for other kids and gave some insight into how your child’s learning is different.
- Education for teachers is imperative, and a BLENNZ teacher facilitating a professional development session with all staff will help them understand your child’s needs and challenges they might face at school, and those of any visually impaired child in general.
- Ask BLENNZ to conduct a full assessment of the school environment, with recommendations for adjustments to make the environment safer (for example, paint on poles, steps, blinds on large windows to reduce light).
- Ask the teacher to allocate – and name! – your child’s cloak bay hook. That way, your child can use the same hook everyday for their bag and knows where to hang their items.
You may have your own experiences of transitioning to school and what worked – or what didn’t! Feel free to share these below in the comment section.