How to Ease the Transition from Summer Break to a New School Year for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

teacher and visually impaired students in a classroom

Yes, it’s a substantial transition. One that repositions our children from the familiarity and comfort of home or daycare in the summer, to brand new classrooms, a different mix of student-peers, unfamiliar teachers, and more intense studies. But don’t fear, the transition from summer break to school can be done well with a little preparation and strategy, and perhaps a dash of fun!

Ideas for easing the summer-to-school transition:

  • Continually talk with your child about when school will begin, what he can expect at school, and his feelings regarding school.
  • Sufficient sleep will be essential to our children’s attentiveness at school. A few weeks before the new school year begins, let’s transition the relaxed summer sleeping pattern to “early to bed, early to rise”. (I know; I’m not looking forward to those early mornings either.)
  • With all those long days of summer fun, we may have pushed the academics and assistive technology to the side (guilty as charged over here). Starting today, help your child remember what he was learning in school by incorporating the academic information and assistive technology into enjoyable games and activities.
  • Let’s encourage our children to be involved with back to school purchases in order to bring familiar, preferred items to the new classroom environment. Help your daughter find a backpack she enjoys and let her play with it at home; involve her in the shopping and storing of school supplies; ensure she finds any new school clothes comfortable.
  • Speaking of school clothes, Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness by Dean Tuttle and Naomi Tuttle states that 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.
  • We can accept every opportunity for our children to meet their teachers. Perhaps your child could come with questions to get to know his teacher and information about himself and his favorite activities.
  • 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.
  • 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 she is with her learning environments, the more comfortable she will feel at school and the more she can focus on learning and building relationships.
  • Strategize your own “parent game plan” by heeding the advice in 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.

For more information and resources regarding sending your child who is blind or visually impaired back to school, read It’s Back-to-School Time Again: Resources for Parents of Blind Children