Teachers of students with visual impairments often referred to as TVIs, are trained and certified to teach students with blindness or low vision, including those with additional disabilities. The TVI will teach special skills that they need to learn in order to participate in the regular school program. This teacher will also work with the other members of the educational team to help them understand the best ways of working with a child who is blind or has low vision.

The TVI will teach a wide array of skills and subjects and have a variety of responsibilities. The particular services your preschooler receives from a TVI will depend on your child’s individual needs and abilities, but they are likely to include the following.

Expanded Core Curriculum Skills

The TVI will work with your preschooler to teach specific skills that your child needs to learn. These skills are called the “expanded core curriculum” and are also sometimes referred to as “disability-specific skills”.

  • Braille skills: If learning to read and write in braille is appropriate for your child, the TVI will begin introducing preliteracy skills using the braille code. The instruction may take place in your child’s preschool classroom at the same time other children are learning beginning reading and writing concepts and skills, or the teacher may take your child to another room and work with him individually on braille activities.
  • Use of vision: If your child has low vision, the TVI may teach how to use their vision more efficiently. Your child may learn how to use a magnifier to see things close up, or a monocular to see things in the distance.
  • Technology: Preschools are increasingly offering activities involving computers and other types of technology. The TVI may work with your child on beginning computer skills, such as locating the space bar or “enter” key to make a choice in a game. They may also teach your child how to use some types of assistive technology, such as a video magnifier or closed-circuit television system (CCTV), to look at pictures, pages in a book, or small objects such as bugs in the science center.
  • Social skills: The TVI may work with your child on learning ways to make friends and to interact with other children. For example, the teacher may help him learn how to ask to join a group of other children, rather than just barging into the middle of the group, or not joining the group at all, how to wait his turn, and how to let others know when he can’t see something.
  • Orientation and mobility (O&M) skills: A TVI receives some training in basic O&M techniques, they may be able to show your child how to get around safely in the classroom and to reinforce the travel skills and concepts that an O&M instructor may be teaching your child.
  • Assessment: The TVI conduct various assessments of your child in order to plan a program that is suited to his abilities and needs. These assessments include a functional vision assessment (how he uses any usable vision) and a learning media assessment (what method of reading and writing would work best for him). Your child’s educational team will use the results of these and other assessments to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with specific learning goals for your child.

Functional Vision Assessment

Learning Media Assessment

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Providing Support

  • The TVI may meet regularly with your child’s preschool teacher or other members of his educational team to discuss how his visual impairment is affecting his learning. They may offer suggestions to the other professionals, such as how to alter the environment to help your child see better, what materials to use to help your child learn, or specific instructional strategies to use.
  • One of the responsibilities of the TVI is to make sure that your child has access to the same materials as their classmates, at the same time. Many materials in a preschool classroom such as the pictures on the bulletin boards, alphabet chart, lunch menu, and books in the story corner are visual, and therefore, your child may not be able to use them. This teacher can make these items available to your child by preparing them in an accessible medium—that is, in a way your child can understand. Depending on your child’s needs, this may mean using braille, larger print, or print on a background that provides more contrast or is a less busy background.

Because the TVI is such a key member in your preschooler’s education, you will want to keep in regular contact. If you’re not receiving information about your child’s progress and the skills they are working on, you can call or email this teacher. You may be able to visit the school when the TVI is working with your child and observe what they are doing so that you can help your child practice the skills at home.

If a TVI is not working with your child at this time, but you feel may benefit from these services, contact the special education department of your public school district to ask for a referral and an assessment.