Home Schooling a Blind Child: A Day Off

We’re pleased to host a second blog post from Susan Harper, who has been home schooling for 22 years.

by Susan Harper

The joys of home schooling are the flexibility to work schedules around whatever. Today, my son is sick for the third day. He is down on the couch, never a good sign. This bug has gone through our entire household, one person at a time. I had to cancel OT and O&M this week because Vinnie is sick. He is rarely sick because he doesn’t bring home whatever is circulating at public school. That too is a benefit of home schooling. However, his older sister started college and brought home this lovely viral thing and it decided to stay.

I am using this unexpected block of time to share with you some things about home schooling. If you have questions about what we do or how we do it, or how we went about it, please, feel free to ask!

Education starts from the time a child is born. Everything you do, as a parent, is a learning experience. Make the most of it and enjoy playing with your child. Play is the work of pre-school children, blind or sighted. Education is a lifelong task! Educators will tell you those first few years are critical. Parents are a child’s first teacher. So, I guess we are pretty important!

Literacy starts with reading to your child. Just because he/she can’t see, doesn’t mean he/she can’t enjoy listening to your voice, sitting in your lap, feeling the gentle rise and fall of you voice while you read. A child with a vision impairment or other co-occurring developmental issues needs the same things that all children do. So you provide a tactile or braille enriching environment and toys. Our first teacher of students with visual impairments, or TVI was great with this. I didn’t know where to begin, so she was our lifeline and our teacher. Once I got over that hurdle of what am I going to do and how am I going to do it, I began to adapt and braille my own books and toys.

One of the best tools that I was given was a copy of the “Oregon Project” checklist. It organizes development tasks into different areas, like: motor skills, speech and language, cognitive, and adaptive. It also organizes skills/expectations by age up to 6. I used this with our TVI and the birth to 3 occupational therapist, or OT. She was part of our life for 10 years, while we worked with fostering premature babies. So we were very comfortable with each other, as well as had a lot of respect as professional providers.

I am still using the “Oregon Project” checklist to track progress and help with determining what skills and concepts we should be working on next. All of Vinnie’s providers have a copy of it. Standardized testing isn’t really useful for visually impaired children. Our OT uses the fine motor skill section; the speech therapist uses the speech and language section, and so on. The Oregon Project is an incredibly useful tool. You can find a copy in PDF file form here: Oregon Project Checklist (PDF).

There are a number of other assessment inventories like this one that are also helpful, this is just my favorite and the one I work with.

Do not get hung up on testing and numbers or age levels. Use the inventories as guides regarding what skills you need to be working on. I parcel these different skill areas out to OT, speech, O&M, social skills training (daycare which provides Section 28 services under behavior health paid for by Medicaid in Maine), etc., based on what I am working on and what pre-skills are important for that task. The TVI and I teach the daily lessons in reading, math, and braille. I also use a regular home school curriculum that I have been using for 22 years, as a guide and adapt it as needed.

I love working with my children! I love it when I discover something new that will help us in our journey! Home school doesn’t require a teaching degree. It does require a commitment to help your child be the best they can be. You will be learning new things, revisiting old favorites, and meeting some amazing people along the way. Enjoy the journey. Relish the sense of accomplishment in small things. They add up to big things!