As we near the beginning of a new school year, school districts prepare teachers with their class roster and include copies of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans. Teachers of students with visual impairments are often busy delivering braille books, low vision devices, and all of the necessary equipment in place for the student.
Meanwhile, parents and children anxiously await the announcement of the teacher for the upcoming school year. For parents with students who are visually impaired, there is the added stress of wanting the teacher to understand their child’s unique needs.
Parents often worry despite the efforts of the educational team. To ease my own anxiety as a parent of a child with a visual impairment, there are a few things I do to prepare for the "Meet and Greet" with the new teacher:
I typically include a copy of my son’s IEP. If you do not have a copy, you can ask at your child’s school’s front desk. Realistically, I know the new teacher will not have time to read the entire IEP before the start of school, so I highlight the important information.
I also scope out the classroom. I have a checklist for my son who has low vision.
- Location of my child’s desk in relation to the board/teacher
- Equipment or devices
- Quick check of the materials around the room. (I take pictures of important lists like sight words that may appear on bulletin boards so I can type lists for future use.)
I then wait and wait for every parent to leave so that I can have a few uninterrupted minutes to share about my child’s visual impairment. When talking to the teacher, make sure your child can hear the discussion because soon he will take over these conversations with future teachers. As I explain my son’s eye condition, I do not expect the teacher to understand the medical terms. One of the most important parts of the conversation is to use examples of things around the room that your child can or cannot see and provide the accommodations for accessing those materials. For example, "My son cannot see the calendar, so he will use an iPad to take a picture and zoom in." As the few borrowed minutes are wrapping up, give the teacher a copy of the highlighted IEP.
I then ask for the teacher’s e-mail and follow up with my child’s teacher of students with visual impairments contact information or other relative information. I suggest writing an e-mail at home, reminding the new teacher about your child’s needs and the ability to easily communicate by hitting reply. Communication is the start of a good relationship for the new school year. It is also important to set the tone that you are a knowledgeable part of your child’s team.
Good luck parents as you prepare for the start of the school year!