Back to School Information for Students with Vision and/or Hearing Impairments

Going back to school during a normal year can be nerve inducing by itself but throw in the current unknowns with the Coronavirus and it becomes a whole new level of anxiety. There are other things that are a given though from school year to school year. This blog will look at tips and trips for students with vision and/or hearing impairments returning to school, advice on how to write better IEPs, and Covid-19 information for persons with vision and/or hearing loss.

Back to School Tips for Blind and Low Vision Students

The information provided in this section came from the article 9 Best Back to School Tips for Blind and Low Vision Students.

  1. Starting fresh- If you are moving to a new school district, or this is your child’s first year in school, take your child’s eye report to the administration office and ask to speak with the special education director. If they don’t know, they can’t help. The special education director will help notify your child’s school, specifically your child’s teacher, of his or her needs prior to the start of the school year. 
  2. Go to Back-to-School Night – Back-to-School night, Meet the Teacher, or any type of open house their school hosts before the school year begins, is a great opportunity for your kiddo to explore their school at their own pace. It’s also a great way to chat with their teacher about any specific tips to help your child have their best school year, like not having a seat near a window or having additional lighting depending on their vision needs.
  3. Glue sticks – Purchase glue sticks that are purple instead of clear or white.  This helps your son/daughter see where they are applying glue.
  4. Markers – Consider markers that have a smell so they have an additional sensory factor in play so they know what color it is if they can’t see it, or so they don’t have to hold it as close to their eye.
  5. Scissors and pencil boxes – When it comes to anything your child can choose their own color of, be sure to choose a bright color you know your child sees easily.
  6. Folders for older students – As your son/daughter gets into middle school, organization will become more and more important. Consider a brightly colored and easily identifiable folder for each subject they are taking. Making sure each class has a different color folder will help them organize their papers/homework.
  7. All in one keeper (trapper keepers) - If your school asks for an all-in-one keeper for middle school students, consider finding one that is easy to find in a crowd.  All black ones might not stand out and get lost.
  8. Lockers – Prior to school, they will assign lockers to students. Lockers in the middle of a long hallway may be hard to locate. Prior to school starting call the school building and talk to your school’s administration. Let them know about your child’s vision impairment and ask if your son/daughter can have a locker on the end. 

Back to School Tips for Deaf and Hearing Loss Students

The tips provided in this section came from the article Tips for going Back to School with a Hearing Loss.

  1. Meet with teachers and tour the school before starting. This is a great way to get to know the environment which your child will be learning in. It’s also good to meet with the teachers to discuss what’s best for your child and how they can help. It’s a good idea to share some deaf awareness tips.
  2. Make sure they get the right support for their level of hearing loss. Children with a severe-profound hearing loss can be entitled to support in class, such as a note taker, interpreter, or classroom assistant. This can be discussed with school prior to a new school year. Without support, deaf children can struggle in classroom situations, and it can impact their grades and they might not achieve their full potential. They might also be entitled to regular support from a Teacher of the Deaf, this will vary on the Education System.
  3. Invest in equipment to improve their learning. Phonak has some great technology, such as the Roger Inspiro for younger children and the Roger Pen for older children. These microphones amplify the teacher’s voice over background noise, which will help them lipread or understand better. One tip specifically for going back-to-school: If you do use this equipment, always make sure it is charged up the night before class!
  4. Encourage them to join clubs/societies. This is a great way of helping the student make new friends, by joining a club or group where they share similar interests. Commitment to this kind of activity also looks great on your CV/ resume for the future.
  5. Store spare batteries! It’s a good idea to always keep spare hearing aid batteries in your bag, locker and with your support worker!
  6. Balance schoolwork with social life. As well as working really hard, it is also important to take time out to relax, socialize and enjoy other hobbies.
  7. Deaf children can achieve, let them try new subjects! Don’t doubt deaf children’s abilities, they can do anything they set out to achieve with the right resources!

Strategies to Creating the Individual Education Plan (IEP)

These strategies, including further resources, come the article 7 Powerful IEP Strategies.

Strategy 1: First, know your rights! Take the time to investigate Federal legislation pertaining to special education supports, as well as the adopted regulations within your individual state. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the civil rights section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are all critical pieces of legislation for you to understand – and there are many more.

Strategy 2: Next, always remember that YOU are the expert on your child! Professionals often have important information to share, but they will come and go through out your child’s life. YOU are there for the “long haul” and have critical knowledge about your child’s areas of strengths and needs that the professionals will never observe. Listen to the opinions of others but be sure to make your opinion heard as well.

Strategy 3: Stop professionals from using their “Alphabet Soup” jargon. Every profession has its own “language” and set of acronyms. It is perfectly fine for professionals to speak to each other during their own meetings using such verbal shorthand, however this is YOUR meeting – staff need to speak in full words and define any terminology that you do not understand.

Strategy 4: Take the time to write out your own Present Levels of Performance (otherwise known in the schools as the PLOP, one of the more humorous acronyms at the table) and share this information with your IEP team. Allowing the team to read how you view your child is very helpful and often brings out strengths or areas of need not yet identified.

Strategy 5: Bring a “significant other”, fellow parent, friend, or anyone you consider a support person with you to the meeting. It can be a time of high emotion and having someone there with you can help reduce your anxiety, as well as help you later recall conversations from the meeting – sometimes it’s hard to remember and to listen when topics are so emotional.

Strategy 6: If you are fairly confident the meeting may be a bit tense, consider bringing to the meeting an adult who has the same or a similar disability as your child. Even if that person never speaks, it is difficult to dismiss critical areas of need when a true “expert” on the topic is sitting at the table!

Strategy 7: Ask for all written information that will be presented at the meeting to be given to you ahead of time and with appropriate time to allow for your review. This includes any assessments as well as any goals or objectives that school staff may have written in advance. It is too difficult to review such information under the emotional pressure of sitting in the meeting. You need time to read, process, and make any written changes you would like to discuss well before walking into the IEP meeting.

Covid-19 Information

The National Federation of the Blind offers a Covid-19 resources page which  is closely monitoring the COVID-19 emergency, which is changing everyone’s lives but has unique effects on blind people. From this page you will find links to General News and Information, Access to COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Survey, Medical and Healthcare Services, Government Payments and Benefits, Education, Transportation, Affiliate Connection for State and Local Resources, Breaking News from the NFB, Jernigan Institute, and Ongoing Efforts.

The National Deaf Center is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with customized resources, tips, and events for deaf youth and the educators, disability services professionals, VR counselors, parents and others who support them. Their page, which is a little outdated at the time of this posting, provides information on Updates and Events, COVID-19 Resources for Teachers and Instructors of Deaf Students, COVID-19 Resources for Disability Services Professionals, VR Counselors, and Employers, COVID-19 Tips for Deaf Students and Their Families, Remote Services for Deaf Students and Employees, Other Helpful Resources, Free Online Professional Development, In the News, and Past Updates and Events.

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