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Education: The Great Equaliser!

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The following points have been expanded in the books available via my web site. They contain much more about accessing learning and the development of valuable skills.

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Your child, young person and specialist educational support

Introduction

For integrated mainstream education and training to be inclusive learning needs to be made accessible… This often requires the involvement of a specialist teacher ...

The Role of a Specialist Peripatetic Teacher

Specialist peripatetic teachers travel around local schools and communicate advice, resources and support for disabled children, parents and young people. This, more specifically, may involve being given responsibility for a cluster of mainstream schools, special schools and homes in a given district. Alternatively, a specialist may be based in,

  • One school which has a resource base

  • A special school supporting children with low vision along with other disabilities

The specialist may,

  • Be given responsibility for a specific age group in a given area. This often means covering a wider area geographically speaking

  • Provide individual tuition in for example Braille

  • Transcribe class work into accessible formats

  • Advise non specialists about meeting the needs of your child or young person

Preschool

Evidence informs us that the pre-school stage is when basics in literacy, daily living skills, independence and mobility are learned. Time is therefore needed in a child’s home by a specialist teacher preparing the child for primary school in these skills.

Advice in the Home

Working in the home can be time-consuming for a peripatetic teacher because of the travelling and a need to move at the family’s pace when establishing a working relationship and passing on new information.

Specialist support is extremely important in the early stages of development. Specialist intervention is necessary to address the developmental impact of a child’s disability, for example low vision.

Specifically in the UK intervention at this stage may involve,

  • Providing information about educational services available

  • Providing advice about developmental programs

Etc

Support in the home can have a considerable impact on the child and family’s development.

Support, Advice and Sometimes Advocacy

A child may have been referred by other professionals as having a problem …

The specialist disability teacher can represent an important link between family and clinicians …

Practical support can further be provided by organising hospital and eye clinic visits ...

Feelings and Seeming Different

Children and young people growing up with low vision can experience many negative effects. These might manifest themselves through,

  • Being unable to see how others look

Etc

A specialist teacher can advise about managing the effect of being different.

Your child or young person might feel,

  • Like an outsider because s/he cannot take part fully in activities

Etc

All of these can undermine confidence or lower self-esteem …

Educational Support

The peripatetic specialist can deliver training in meeting the needs of your child or young person in the learning environment …

The specialist can also,

  • Show you activities which can improve your child’s visual skills such as fixation and tracking

Etc

Trained Teaching Assistant

The skills of a trained teaching assistant under the direction of a class teacher are invaluable. Training will be required from a specialist teacher …

Input may also be required from a teaching assistant during,

  • Self-care activities

Etc

A trained and experienced teaching assistant can also,

  • Produce large print and tactile materials

Etc

Specialist Advice

Low vision provision should be overseen by a specialist teacher in visual impairment … A low vision teaching specialist can advise on,

  • The child or young person’s progress

Etc

A Lack of Specialist Support

Many families, children and young people are not getting the support they need. This occurs for several reasons to include,

  • A lack of sensitivity towards the needs of a child or young person

Etc

A specialist teacher can help address these issues.

Introduction

Visual difficulties may appear at any age and change progressively over time.

  • Some children and young people have a visual impairment from birth which is likely to remain constant with planning made accordingly.

  • Other conditions may improve after surgery.

  • Some children or young people becoming better at independently managing their disability over time.

  • Conversely, other conditions may deteriorate unpredictably and even occur by way of an accident.

Consequently, a service must meet the needs of children and young people with a static condition whilst being flexible enough to meet the changing requirement of others. This inevitably will have an impact on service planning …

Provision

Provision should always be allocated based on assessment and individual need …

Level of Support

Members of a low vision team should endeavour to communicate, cooperate and work closely with other specialists in order to fully benefit the child or young person …

If an authority has a small population or covers a small geographical area it can join with another authority to co-run a team.

A local authority should not only employ specialist teachers but also specialist tutors. Tutors will then cover for example, touch typing, mobility training, independent living skills training, Braille tuition, rehabilitation and habilitation. A rehabilitation or habilitation worker could also help children or young people access the community during out of school or college hours by arranging and supporting activities …

Specialist tutors may be funded jointly by all three statutory services or another adjacent local authority …

When Sh

ould Your Child or Young Person Receive Support?

To aid quality control a low vision support team should clearly set out its engagement criteria in specific and quantifiable terms.

A member of the team should visit if your child or young person has,

  • A visual acuity of 6/18 and/or

  • A visual field of less than 10 degrees from the point of fixation and/or

  • Near vision loss rendering her or him unable to read print size appropriate to age and/or

  • A known ophthalmic condition (with the exception of strabismus)

Support Should be Based on Four Levels of Visual Need

  • Mild: acuity 6/18 in better eye or problem with one eye only or poor prognosis.

Children should be seen termly by a peripatetic specialist for a functional visual assessment and monitoring with advice passed onto school, college and parents.

  • Moderate: acuity 6/24 to 6/36 or with Nystagmus, good near vision, or defect of at least half visual field.

A peripatetic specialist teacher will visit fortnightly or monthly dependent on need to advise on materials, the implementation of the Individual Education Plan and be involved in direct work with the child or young person …

  • Severe: acuity 6/36 to 3/60 or registered Sight Impaired or with a very restricted visual field and impaired visual acuity.

Delivered here will be direct teaching support and pre-tutoring from a peripatetic specialist involving daily contact or several visits a week. Specialist Teaching Assistant time will be needed in all lessons requiring 1-1 support for the reformatting of materials and during extra curricula activities.

  • Profound: acuity 3/60 or less or registered Severely Sight Impaired or unable to read print without a sophisticated aid for example Close Circuit Television or the child or young person is a tactile learner.

Delivered here will be direct teaching support and pre-tutoring from a peripatetic specialist involving daily contact or several visits a week. Specialist Teaching Assistant time will be required for 1-1 support, for the reformatting of materials and during extra curricula activities …

Pre-School Placements

It is generally believed that most children benefit from an early school placement. They learn to,

  • Model behaviour on peers

Etc

Specialist Paediatric Support

For children with a visual impairment and no other disabilities a mainstream day nursery, playgroup or nursery class will probably be suitable. Extra support is likely to be needed along with advice and training from a specialist in developing age appropriate,

  • Social skills

  • Independent living skills

  • Movement, orientation and mobility

Etc

The peripatetic specialist should design and monitor programs …

Support in a Specialist or Non-Specialist Learning Environment

Placing all children with a visual impairment in one nursery means that staff can develop specialist knowledge, skills and experience along with more specialist resources concentrated in one place …

Nursery Attached to a School

Attaching a nursery to a school, and developing a resource base for visually impaired children can potentially provide continuity for the child and staff if the child moves into the school after nursery …

Multi-Disabled and Visually Impaired

Children who are multi-disabled and visually impaired, although depending on individual need, can be suitably placed in a mainstream setting. Alternatively, the best option may be a local day special school …

It cannot be emphasised enough that a visual impairment, no matter what other areas of need are present, must be supported by specialists in visual impairment …

Significant Developmental Delay

Some children with complex needs, for example significant developmental delay, may need a great deal of individual support …

A unit for those with a variety of special needs may be restrictive, and consequently, a child with low vision may benefit from a wider social context …

Mainstream and Specialist Education or Training Support

Mainstream and specialist educational support issues to consider include,

  • Non-specialist classroom teachers must know where to get advice and support to meet the child or young person’s visual needs

  • There must be enough specialist time available to meet need

  • From where will funds for specialist provision come? For example, who will fund and supply,


    1. Task lighting

    2. Specialist ICT and its maintenance

Etc

Support in a Mainstream School Resource Base

Whilst sharing the same campus the unit must be an inherent part of the school …

Benefits

  • A resource base is usually more economical through being able to concentrate human and material resources in one place

  • Resourcing is likely to be greater and therefore, educationally better for your child

  • Staff throughout the school develop experience and expertise in meeting the needs of children with low vision

Etc

Your child with a visual impairment will also have contact with other learners who are visually impaired and this can help to counteract the feeling of isolation …

Disadvantages

  • Concentrating provision in one school means, although integrated, your child may have to travel to the placement and is thereby separated from the immediate local community…

  • Sometimes, children who are part of the unit tend to find it very secure and can even be encouraged to spend a lot of time to include break times in the unit. This undermines the concept of integration and consequently, full integration doesn’t take place

Etc

What Should a Specialist Resource Base Address and Incorporate?

The learning environment should be accessible. This can mean addressing,

  • Poor lighting to make it suitable

  • Frequent and hazardous changes to floor levels

Etc

A school where there are a large number of languages spoken may present a problem for children already finding it difficult to communicate …

Meaningful Integration

For proper and meaningful integration to take place your child should be a full participant during:

  • Assemblies

  • Playtimes

  • Extra-curricular activities

Etc

If integration isn’t occurring it needs justifying in a specific and quantifiable way …

Further Education

Local mainstream post-secondary tertiary colleges suitable for those with low vision are often under resourced with access to expertise in low vision absent too.

Like schools, these colleges require input from specialist teachers and tutors in visual impairment. They require similar curriculum resources with staff trained in the same way.

Age appropriate independent living skills and mobility training in particular should be offered. However, for many, the only option to meet need currently is a specialist independent residential college….

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