Helping Students Who Are Blind or Low Vision Manage Classroom Work and Homework
Teachers and parents sometimes find it hard to decide, or agree, on how much classroom work and homework to require of a student with blindness or low vision. Your child’s teachers may shorten assignments or extend deadlines from time to time. If that happens frequently, your child might begin to expect the same sort of treatment in high school and later on the job. However, well-meaning those “perks” are, they’re not really in your child’s best interests.
Adapting Classroom Work for Children with Blindness or Low Vision
Grade school is where students are given an increasing amount of academic work and also learn the structure of the school day. They need to absorb a lot of information to move on to the next level of academic work. An important focus at this stage for you and the other members of your child’s educational team is to help your child develop strategies to keep up with sighted classmates. Those skills don’t happen automatically. They need to be developed and practiced so that they can later move on to high school with confidence in their academic abilities.
How You and Your Child’s Educational Team Can Help
- To reduce the amount of time your child has to spend in class copying work from the chalkboard, talk to the classroom teacher and teacher of students with visual impairments about providing a copy of the information to use at their desk in print or braille. It’s best to make that request at the beginning of the term, or even before school starts, to alert these teachers to your child’s needs and give them time to prepare.
- In the earlier grades, you might ask the classroom teacher to consider having students work in pairs or small groups to complete assignments. In that way, your child can get a sense of what it’s like to work on a multi-task project before she has to take full responsibility for completing one.
Homework is an essential part of school. If you find that your child doesn’t get homework assignments, and discover that their sighted classmates do, speak to your child’s teacher and the rest of the educational team about the importance of having the same expectations for your child as for the other students in the class. Here are some things you can do to help your child with homework.
- If your child uses braille textbooks, ask for a set of print textbooks to have at home. This will enable you to understand what they are working on and answer any questions.
- If the classroom teacher doesn’t make it standard practice to provide your child with accessible copies of the information he or she writes on the chalkboard, ask the teacher to give you copies of class notes, especially if your child has to copy them from the board or take notes while the teacher is speaking. Use these to check the accuracy of your child’s notes. If you find discrepancies, talk to other members of your child’s educational team about strategies to help your child become a more efficient note taker.
- If there are times when you have to help write out an assignment for your child, be sure to write exactly what they dictate to you. Don’t correct their grammar or spelling. It’s important that the teacher sees their work—not your cleaned-up version of it.
- If your child needs to do homework in shorter blocks of time due to visual fatigue, try setting up a schedule for after school that provides time to relax, then do some homework, have dinner, then do more homework, or some similar schedule.
- For longer projects, such as a book report or science experiment, work with your child to develop a schedule for finishing each step.
- If reading long text passages in print or braille slows down your child’s homework, discuss with the educational team how they can have at least some of the reading material digitally to supplement textbooks or other written material.
- Your child will probably have some assignments that require extra time. Encourage your child to recognize when that’s the case, to alert their teacher in advance, and to negotiate an extended due date rather than make excuses after they miss a deadline. In this way, your child will be developing skills to use their entire life as well as a sense of organization and responsibility.
Let “nature take its course,” so to speak when it comes to turning in homework. If your child doesn’t hand it in on time, they deserves the same consequences as their classmates. Some of your child’s teachers may want to be more lenient because of their eye condition. But this isn’t helpful in the long term because it misleads your child about what others expec, both in other classes and outside of school.
Being Organized Is Important
Whether at home or school, your child will be more efficient if they have strong organizational skills.
If your daughter is a braille reader, it will also be helpful to place braille labels in the same position on all folders so they can quickly find what they are looking for. In addition, using small storage boxes and trays can make it easier to locate items such as a slate and stylus, abacus, index cards, and other smaller items at home or takes to school.
Give your child space for an organized area to keep the materials needed to complete homework or other projects. If your child usually does homework at the kitchen table, you might set up shelves or a storage container in that room so that things used often, such as the braillewriter, hand-held magnifier, markers, visors to minimize glare from overhead lights, and other items are close at hand.