Section 3 - General Transition Issues
As a very young child, your son/daughter relies on you to choose which school will most effectively allow him to achieve his best. As he works his way through the education system, it may be necessary for you to work alongside professional staff to help teachers1 teach the best curriculum for your child. Finally, as he comes to the end of his school career you may have to suggest career or college/university choices. It will be important for you to ensure that your visually impaired child has the skills required if he is to progress in later life and to effectively compete with his sighted peers in a challenging world. Transition arrangements therefore, require constant thought as your child moves from one setting to another. It is often a complex process which places many demands on all those involved. It can prove to be a minefield at all stages and the same issues often appear time and time again. You will have to consider;
- current legislation (dealt with in the previous section)
- assessment procedures/what are your child's needs?
- choice of nursery/school/college/employment.
- appropriate curriculum2
- visual impairment support
- how your child makes friends with other children at school.
Assessment Procedures / What are my child's needs?
When your child is diagnosed with a visual impairment, it is important that you take advantage of professional help as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, recent VI Scotland research has shown that 74% of visually impaired children are registered as blind or partially sighted after the age of 5 years. So how can you find out about your child’s vision?
If your child is diagnosed with a visual impairment, it may have been detected by a Health Visitor or General Practitioner who will then refer your child to an eye hospital. Once there, he will be assessed by an ophthalmologist – an eye doctor. If your child has complex needs or another physical disability, he may require additional assistance from several other health professionals, such as physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and paediatricians, etc.
Once your child has been diagnosed with a visual impairment, it is then vitally important for Parents/Carers to have a referral made to have a functional vision assessment conducted by a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). At Pre-school level, the TVI, will assess the impact of your child’s visual loss on learning, using a range of functional vision assessment tools, as well as help with play and support. He/She will also begin the process of making sure that your child is getting the best level of education that he can cope with and to deal with any additional support needs your child may have.
As your child grows up, he may or may not (depending on the child) have his vision monitored by Ophthalmologists, community Paediatricians, Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Orthoptists (who work to improve vision) or by an Optician. Each has an individual role to play in your child’s welfare, and together they ensure that his vision does not cause a major barrier to learning.
Many children with a visual impairment have additional needs. To make sure that your child gets the best level of education he can cope with, it may be necessary for an Educational Psychologist to assess your child’s overall learning needs. This may include visual loss; other physical limitations; specific learning difficulties and how well he learns and at what speed. The Educational Psychologist may have a very important role in organising any future support through a Co-ordinated Support Plan. In some authorities though this may not be the case, and an identified KEY WORKER will have this job. Your school and or local authority will tell you who this person is.
Choice of Nursery/School/College/Employment
Visit as many schools as possible. Attempt to have a clear picture of which placement would best meet your child’s individual needs. Each child is very different, and often there is no right or wrong choice and a full range of provision should be available throughout Scotland in either a special or mainstream school environment. (NOTE: In many areas this is not the case in practice.)
Children whose only disability is their visual impairment usually go to their local mainstream school with specialist input from a visiting Peripatetic Teacher of the Visually Impaired (PTVI’s). These specialists will work very closely with you and your child, the school and your child’s classroom teacher and should provide regular support and advice. These teachers should routinely assess your child’s functional vision to determine what specialist support will help them overcome their visual loss. PTVI’s can assist with the preparation and adaptation of materials; recommend and provide instruction in the use of assistive technology such as laptops with speech output or enlargement software; Braille devices or video magnification.
Alternatively, some local authorities have a Unit/Resource Base attached to a mainstream school in their area. These units are staffed by specialist Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI's) and give visually impaired children the opportunity to mix with both their sighted and visually impaired peers within an inclusive setting. These TVI's work in the same way as PTVI's except that the level of input is often more intensive and immediately available.
Alternatively, some local authorities have a Unit/Resource Base attached
to a mainstream school in their area. These units are staffed by specialist
Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI’s) and give visually impaired
children the opportunity to mix with both their sighted and visually impaired
peers. These TVI’s work in the same way as PTVI’s except that
the level of input is often more intensive and immediately available.
Many children with complex needs and visual impairment are just go to mainstream schools, with resources provided by a team of teachers, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, learning support teachers and other professionals. Certainly, a great deal of forward planning and resources may be necessary to ensure success, but it can be achieved. Increasingly, there have been many successful examples of split placements between a special school environment and a local mainstream school.
This is becoming routine practice, as many special schools are developing closer links to local schools. Remember, every child’s additional support needs are completely individual and therefore, it is essential for you to choose a school that is best for your child.
If you require help in deciding which environment would be the most suitable one for your child, you may wish to seek additional advice from your Local Council's Education Department, VI Scotland and/or RNIB (Scotland).
1 find the best way and most useful subjects for your child.
2 By 'appropriate curriculum' I am referring to a school work
and subjects that suits the individual needs of the child. It should consider
a range of factors:
-the age and stage of a child’s learning ability
-the child's ability to access the work and learning materials.
-the work may require modification to suit a child's learning needs.
-Access to certain subjects may more problematic than others eg: practical subjects/PE in Secondary school reinforce failure and therefore require serious changes to the syllabus to achieve learning outcomes. Such changes/adaptations would result in an 'appropriate curriculum' being taught to cater for individual abilities.