How Will My Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Access A Formal Education?

young boy reading a print/braille book     as his teacher looks on

For those of you who have children recently diagnosed with a visual impairment, I want to give insight into how your child will access her schooling.

Thankfully, you will work with a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI). In all likelihood you will hold this teacher very dear to your heart. He or she greatly cares for your child; roots for your child; teaches blindness-specific skills (known as the Expanded Core Curriculum) to him or her; and helps ensure your child can access school-based instruction, materials, assignments, tests, technology, and the environment. To learn about the full scope of TVI services, read The Central Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.

Now because the TVI will help your child access her materials and such, the TVI will need to know the how your child best accesses information. [Does she see best when presented with an object on her left side? Does she need to sit close to the teacher? Does bright light affect her vision? Is she a good candidate for braille?] To find the answers to these questions and many more, the TVI will perform a Functional Vision Assessment to see how your child can best utilize any remaining vision, and a Learning Media Assessment to decide your child’s best learning method (such as braille, print, or other choice).

Based on the results of the assessments, you (parent) and the TVI will tell your child’s educational team how to provide instruction, materials, assignments, and tests in a way that your child can access. Your recommendations will be recorded at a formal meeting ( Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting).

For example, your child may need to manipulate actual objects when learning to count instead of counting pictures of objects in a kindergarten worksheet. This would be called an accommodation. Other examples of accommodations include braille books, learning through an experience, and verbalizing the information on the class whiteboard.

If the workload is altered, however, such as when the number of math problems your child is expected to complete is fewer than her peers, that is called a modification. When possible, an accommodation is preferred to a modification so that your child is best prepared for the standard workforce where she will receive accommodations, but her workload will generally not be modified.

Lest this blog post become a novel, please read in-depth about accommodations and modifications in the FamilyConnect article, Accommodations and Modifications at a Glance: Educational Accommodations for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

As always, send your questions and concerns our way.