Back to School Checklist for Parents of a Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

A tablet with a picture of a chalkboard with the sentence back to school written in it, on a rustic wooden desk with worn pencil crayons of different colors

The school year is around the corner and (I’ll be honest), as the momma of two girls who are currently going a little stir crazy at home, I can’t say I’m overly sad. I just may be a tad excited. Perhaps you share in my enthusiasm? Regardless, I think you’ll agree it is time to prepare our children for success in the 2016-2017 school year.

I’ve put together a general checklist and I hope you’ll tailor it for your child:

  1. If your child has low vision, visit a low vision therapist who can provide your child with optical devices such as a monocular (mini telescope) or specialized glasses to help your child best use his or her vision in the classroom this year.

  2. Communicate with your child about the upcoming school routine. Talk about when school will begin, what he can expect at school, and his feelings regarding school.

  3. Prepare your child’s body for early mornings by intentionally transitioning from the relaxed summer sleeping pattern to “early to bed, early to rise”. Sleep and wake cycles are particularly complicated for children and adults who are totally blind; you can learn more by reading Sleep Problems of Young Blind Children in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness and, though geared to adults, Improving Sleep Disorders in People Who Are Blind.

  4. It’s proven that children regress in academic skills over the summer break; to combat this, help your child practice what he was learning in school by incorporating the academic information and assistive technology use into enjoyable games and activities.

  5. Invite your child to help you with back to school purchases. He or she will not only learn from the shopping and purchasing experiences, but will also then bring familiar, preferred items to the new classroom environment.

  6. When making school clothes purchases, bare in mind: Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness by Dean Tuttle and Naomi Tuttle states sighted peers will more easily see that a child who is blind is "just like me" when the child is dressed similarly to his peers. I recommended choosing trendy, age-appropriate, tasteful, and comfortable clothing for the new school year.

  7. Help your child become familiar with teachers in advance. Perhaps your child could come to "meet the teacher night" and additional teacher consults with questions to get to know his teacher and information about himself and his favorite activities.

  8. Talk with your young child’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and classroom teacher about a plan for a safe, accessible classroom and accessible classroom materials. In addition to obtaining accessible textbooks and assigned readings, you can discuss information important for the new classroom teacher: the best seating assignment for your child, an organized classroom, using tactual markers at your child’s desk and at centers, ensuring your child has the same information that her sighted peers have when they look at the classroom walls, accessible lessons and assignments, etc. Older children should talk directly with their classroom teacher regarding classroom and material accessibility.

  9. Formally introduce your child to her classroom, special classrooms (such as the art room and gymnasium), lunchroom, and school grounds with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. The more familiar the learning environments, the more your child can focus on learning and building relationships.

  10. Read Emily Coleman’s 6 Ways to Help the School "Own" Your Child Who Is Blind These tips will encourage your involvement in the school, thereby positioning you on the school’s "team". Your child will have the best chance for success when you and the school are united.

Of course, the older your child, the more of the responsibility your child should have over the checklist items.

What else would you add? How will you prepare your child for success this school year?