Online Learning for Kids who are Blind or Low Vision In Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Young boy at a table with APH's Code Jumper

COVID-19 has turned our lives upside-down. In our house, one of the biggest challenges we face is continuing education for our son who is blind. Joshua is ten years old and in the 4th grade. We adopted Joshua three years ago from China. Prior to his adoption, Joshua did not have any opportunity to learn braille or how to use a cane for independence. These past three years, he has made great progress, both in learning braille and orientation and mobility skills. It is imperative for Joshua to continue on his education journey during these weeks at home. Fortunately, Joshua’s vision team is an incredible help in keeping him on track. They have provided him with many tools to help him stay on target with his classmates and continue to work virtually with him throughout the week.

Our New Normal

Each morning, Joshua sets up his “office” at the dining room table. It consists of his iPad, his Brailliant, his BrailleNote Touch Plus, and any manipulatives he might need for his math assignments. He meets with his vision teacher via Google Meet to make sure all his assignments are accessible for him. He is able to do the majority of his assignments on his BrailleNote and turn them in to his teachers. If the assignments are not in an accessible format, his vision team works with him verbally or adjusts the assignment. He also uses apps such as Math Robot for keeping his math skills sharp and Epic for an endless variety of audio books.

Changing Things Up

For orientation and mobility lessons, we take lots of walks around the neighborhood and at a nearby park. Joshua is getting very good at navigating and exploring these outdoor spaces independently and especially loves walking through the woods. His orientation and mobility teacher is also meeting with him virtually to reinforce skills he has already learned and gain new skills.

While online learning is not ideal, especially for those who are blind/ low vision and need hands on learning, we have found it is a great opportunity for Joshua to explore technology and the many ways it can be accessible for him. We know as he progresses into middle school and beyond, he will be using technology more and more. Joshua sometimes gets frustrated with navigating the various pieces of technology, but I am thankful for this time to help him learn how to use it more effectively. Hopefully, once this is all over, he will be a pro at figuring out which device is best for each assignment and be able to execute it efficiently and independently.

For hands-on and fun learning, we enjoy doing things together and learning life skills. Joshua is excited to learn how to bake, explore coding with Code Jumper, play games together as a family, and spend time outdoors when it is nice.

The Silver Lining

Making the adjustment to online education has been difficult for everyone: parents, teachers and students; however, I encourage you to make the most of the time you have with your child and work together to have fun. You may or may not have access to all the technology, but there are other ways to make learning fun. Take a few minutes to have a dance party, enjoy the sunshine on the warm days, and work on independence at home by teaching life skills. You may never have a time like this again, so take a deep breath and do your best to make the most of the time you have together!

Jenna Lewis and her husband adopted their son Joshua, who is blind, from China when he was 7-years-old. Jenna shares with FamilyConnect their journey to learn braille, O&M skills, and more.