DEVELOPING SELF-ADVOCACY SKILLS
Communicating the attributes and needs of each visually impaired student in the classroom setting is critical to educational success. It is often the role of the parent, principal or Teacher of Visually Impaired (TVI) to help the teachers, students and staffs understand the characteristics of the student’s impairment as well as adaptations needed environmentally and academically.
As children enter formal education as a visually impaired student, those around them are full of questions on how this affects their role in the student’s life.
The ultimate goal or objective is to have the student become proficient at self advocacy — or communicate — at least some of their needs. Until that can be accomplished the adults in that student’s life need to pave the way.
In its most simple form, self-advocacy requires an understanding of one’s visual impairment and needs as well as how to communicate those needs to others.
The following is a quick checklist of potential educational/adaptive needs of a visually impaired student. The items that apply allow that student to fully access their education. As a parent, you can review the list and transfer any item on this list that applies to your student to their personal list….this may be as easy as doing a “copy and paste” to transfer and edit those items that fit the student. This is just an inspiration for you to create a list that is more precise to your visually impaired child. This list compiled by you will contain the specific items that will apply to your student.
Again, the objective is to have the student do a large percentage of the communication themselves. This exercise may help pave the way to the goal of educating teachers and staff of an accessible education.
SAMPLE LIST FOR MY EDUCATIONAL NEEDS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
- What can I see and at what distance? “Even though I wear glasses I can not see as well as you” or “Even if I wore glasses that would not correct my vision”.
- How close to the board should I sit? For example, “Can I sit at a table next to the board when information is being presented there?“
- What size print can I read at the board and at what distance? For example, “I need to be within 5 feet in order to see the board.”
- I may not see others raise their hands. I may miss body language cues or other gestures that others see and I don’t.
- I cannot always see the clock from where I am seated.
- All my deskwork needs to be enlarged, not just tests.
- When I read I may put my head very close to what I’m reading. Sometimes my face is only an inch or less away from what I’m reading. It does not hurt my eyes.
- What size print can I use to read efficiently and not get a headache?
- I need my desk copy of work to be enlarged to a 70 size font… (Give an appropriate font size)
- I see better when there is less clutter on a page. Too much information, small font, large pictures and varied colors mixed with text may make it difficult for me to read.
- I often use a felt tip marker when I write so I can see my writing better.
- I use dark lined paper.
- I use a hand held magnifier to see text better.
- I use Braille to read and write. Braille follows the 26 characters of the alphabet. Braille is a system of characters made up of raised dots. Students learn to read Braille by moving both hands from left to right across the line of Braille words.
- How much light do I need? I see less when there is glare. Too much light gives me a headache.
- Because I’m sensitive to bright light I wear special glasses. I always wear sunglasses on the playground.
- I may need extra time to read and answer all the questions on a test.
- If tests or reading assignments are read to me I may not retain them as well and my grades may suffer.
- I may need a buddy that I can sit next to and be allowed to ask questions if I miss something that was presented. A buddy may help me find places in the school that I cannot find on my own yet.
- In fire drills, when people are exiting quickly, I may need guidance, a buddy, or detailed information on movement would be a big help.
- I may require help locating my bus.
- I may need medication at certain times of day and have to go to the office.
- If people run in front of me quickly I may not see them.
- I have problems with depth perception at times. I may stumble and fall if there is a change in grade, texture, or elevation of the surface I’m walking on.
- Assistive Technology:
- I use a Perkins Brailler to write Braille with.
- I use a slant board to help avoid glare on my work.
- “When I use the computer I use screen magnification.” Many recent computers and tablets have screen readers built into them. NOTE: A Google search may find a free one for your computer.
- To see the board I use a magnification device.
- To see some of my desk work I use a hand held magnifier . . . or I use a CCTV,
- I use a note-taker when I write papers or take notes.IMPORTANT: Because of the sensitivity of certain information, information may not be discussed with surrounding staff unless it is initiated by the student, parent or VI teacher. It is important to be aware to what information is important for each specific staff or volunteer to know and understand.
ACTIVITIES: DEVELOPING SELF-ADVOCACY SKILLS:
A Letter to Next Year’s Teacher:
In the spring, in anticipation of the end of the school year, a letter to next years teacher may be drafted. This may take a month to outline and perfect. Both the student and Teacher of Visually Impaired may craft a letter introducing them selves and telling the new teacher all the things that they may want to know about them. This would be a forum to present the student’s accommodations, position of desk in the class, type of media used, large print, etc. in the words of the student.
A Presentation To The Student’s Class:
In a short presentation to classmates discuss the visual impairment and how it affects the student in class. Include the important things for them to know like how far away they can see efficiently both near and at a distance and the materials needed in accommodating their low vision. This short information session can be done by the TVI, Teacher of Visually Impaired, or the general education teacher, and assisted by the student. You may want to include playground and cafeteria workers, volunteers, the school secretary, bus driver, librarian, or custodian depending on how the family feels about informing those surrounding the visually impaired student. The outline for the presentation can be pre-planned in writing. If comfortable, have a question and answer session at the end of the program.
— Activities shared by Clarissa Miller, TCVI, Clinton County Regional Education Service Agency, Michigan
Disclaimer: Please note that the websites and webpages shown below are not all inclusive of all websites containing this type of information. Always consult your child’s health care provider(s) and educators for additional reliable and accurate information.
- Family Connect (hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind) http://www.familyconnect.org/blog/familyconnect-a-parents-voice/how-to-get-assistive-technology-for-your-child/12
- Teaching Visually Impaired.com: http://www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com/self-determination.html