This is going to be a difficult school year for students and parents across the United States and the world. Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, some schools are choosing to stay virtual for at least the first few months of the year. Other schools have opted to return to in-person, socially distanced learning. No matter which option your child’s school has chosen, it is critical that you are prepared for the school year to start back up and that you know your child’s rights.
If your child’s school is remaining virtual, check out some of the tips we provided in our How to Prepare Your Home for Homeschool for the Visually Impaired blog post this spring. Many of the topics highlighted in this post are still applicable to this fall. Importantly, the first thing you need to know before you start the new school year is what resources your child is eligible to receive from your district. For example, there is a long list of educational equipment that the New York State Commission for the Blind requires the school district of a visually impaired student to pay for, even if the child is homeschooled. Many other states have similar requirements – look up your state and county regulations to see if you are entitled to any tools that will make virtual learning easier for your family.
If your child will be returning to an in-person learning program, there is one clear challenge those who live with ADOA (Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy) or other visual impairments may face: wearing a mask all day, every day. Some types of N95, surgical, and cloth masks can ride up and impede vision further. Try multiple options with your child to see what stays on best while speaking, without falling or moving. Another option to consider is a face shield, which provides protection for your child as well as less potential visual impairment.
Whether your child is learning at home or in-person this fall, make sure that you are in communication with their school about the addendums that may need to be made to your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program). Before the semester begins, identify the aid or school administrator you will be working with to address potential issues that arise. Such situations to talk through include what happens if your child accidentally selects the wrong button on an online exam due to their visual impairment, or how to effectively communicate your child’s needs to substitute teachers. Work proactively with the school before classes begin to find advocates for your child and mitigate potentially unforeseen circumstances.
Do you have additional tips you want to share with the ADOA community on navigating your experience homeschooling your child? Share them with us by filling out our Contact Us form at the bottom of our brand new, redesigned website! Also be sure to also follow us on Facebook for more tips and frequent updates.