University of Edinburgh

VIScotland Parent Guide to Mainstream Visual Impairment Education

What type of mainstream school?

With the recent changes to Education legislation (outlined in Chapter 2), local authorities now presume that mainstreaming will be the first option for parents and are legally required to provide a strategic plan which will enable your child's successful integration into a mainstream setting. The local authority must make 'reasonable adjustments' to the school of your choice, in terms of physical access; access to the curriculum and improved communication in an appropriate format. However, the local authority may argue that it is either too difficult or expensive to immediately make major adaptations to your preferred school, and are NOT required by law to do so. Remember, they are only obliged to plan for the future, and that may not be of immediate benefit to your child.

Therefore, what you must decide when choosing an educational placement is what type of school would best meet your child's individual needs. There is no right or wrong choice and there is a full spectrum of provision available in Scotland in either a special or mainstream environment.

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. PTVl's can assist with the preparation and adaptation of materials; recommend and provide instruction in the use of access 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 provide visually impaired children the opportunity to mix with their sighted and visually impaired peers within an integrated environment. TVI's work in the same way as peripatetic Teachers of the Visually Impaired except that input is much more regular and immediately available.

Many children with complex needs and visual impairment are integrated into 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, with the aim of improving social inclusion for their pupils.

Remember, no one child is the same and it is vital that you choose a school that is best for him/her.

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).