By Holly Bonner
With back to school on the horizon, families across the nation are beginning to come to terms that the end of summer in inevitable. As we say goodbye to fireworks and backyard barbeques, we also need to dedicate time to preparing our children for another successful year in the classroom. For low vision parents, the process of back to school planning doesn’t need to be frustrating. With some simple preparation, you can help seamlessly transition your kids between summer vacation and the start of school by using the following tips.
Tip #1: Don’t Hide Your Low Vision
Don’t be afraid to talk about your low vision with your children, their teachers, and the school’s administration. Be honest about how your vision impacts your role as a parent. Talk about how you “see” and take the time to self-advocate by educating others about the types of technology you use to live your life. Discuss ways your child and the school can provide information in an accessible method. Above all, project an attitude of confidence and enthusiasm. Remember, your low vision does not define you as a parent, it is merely part of your parenting journey.
Tip #2: Educate the Educators
Not many people understand that vision loss is a spectrum. Sometimes, you have to take the time to “educate the educators.” This may involve a visit to your child’s school to meet one on one school administration and teachers. Consider taking any technology you use and provide a quick demonstration. Exude enthusiasm about your child’s classwork and be sure to express how you want to be an integral part of their classroom experience. If you prefer to get school updates via email or text, make sure you convey that to those in charge. If you should encounter any form of resistance by a teacher or staff member, indicate that you are protected under the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) and have the legal right to be a part of your child’s school experience by requesting a reasonable accommodation.
Tip #3: Take A Low Vision Tour
There’s no way you can dispel all of the worries associated with back to school, but you can ease quite a bit of your family’s back-to-school anxiety while living with low vision by removing as many unknowns as possible. Request a tour of your child’s school building over the summer. Walking the halls and exploring available classroom space will familiarize your child and yourself with their new environment. This will take some of the fear out of the first day and help you as the low vision parent become more comfortable within your child’s school surroundings.
Back-to-School Tip #4: Be Proactive with Low Vision
When it comes to kids, many low vision parents take a “wait and see” approach. No pun intended. Low vision parents can sometimes be intimidated by school personnel. They may worry that by taking a more assertive role, or by requesting accommodations, they will be labeled as “troublemakers.” Here’s the deal, being proactive doesn’t mean that you’re being pushy; rather, it means you are committed to your child’s education.
Back-to-School Tip #5: Stay Consistently Organized:
Routines work! Developing positive habits can absolutely help ease back to school anxieties for low vision parents. Priority number one should be to purchase everything on your kid’s back to school shopping list. Once you have your child’s supplies, you will be able to label items in a way that both you and your kid can find them. Consider using a large print label maker, adhesive bump dots, or 20/20 black markers to denote your child’s grade, teacher and the subject matter. In addition, be sure to establish a “homework zone” in a quiet, clutter-free, and well-lit area of your home. Low vision parents need to eliminate an unnecessary distractions to maintain organization with their children. Finally, once you’ve established rules and procedures, enforce them. Be honest with your child and explain that your low vision means you must make certain at-home accommodations in order to help them have a successful school experience.
Many low vision adults have thriving families with school-aged children. Every successful school year begins at home. By having an open dialogue about your vision, imploring self-advocacy techniques, integrating yourself into the school culture and being consistently organized, both you and your child will become partners in their overall academic experience.
Are you a low vision parent with kids heading back to school? We’d love to hear and share your tips and experiences in a future 20/20 blog posts! Blog@LowVisionMD.org