At some point in your teaching career, you’re going to have students with an IEP in your classroom. One of the reasons that a student would get an IEP is because they are visually impaired, or blind. What should you do if you have a visually-impaired student in your class during student teaching? Try these 6 things to help your student.
Review the IEP
If your student’s IEP meeting occurs while you’re student teaching, ask your cooperating teacher if you can sit in on it. It’s a great opportunity to see how an IEP meeting goes and learn what to expect as a teacher. It also helps you learn about your student and what you can do to better meet their needs.
If you can’t attend the IEP meeting, then ask your teacher if you can review the IEP. That way you know what you should do to help your student, such as printing worksheets, information on the chalkboard, and PowerPoints.
Familiarize Yourself with Braille
What do you know about Braille? Chances are that this is your first introduction to Braille. Learn as much as you can about it and practice using it. Also, familiarize yourself with some of the other tools that your student uses, such as
- A Braille reader,
- A Cranmer abacus, and
- Special software programs.
Talk to the Student’s Paraprofessional
Most of the time, visually-impaired students have a paraprofessional with them throughout the day. This person is a great resource to help you reach the needs of your student. For example, talk to the para about the organizational system used. Visually-impaired students rely on organization to find the books, papers, and supplies that they need.
A Braille reader takes twice as long to read. Take this into account for in-class reading assignments. Also, learn your student’s speed, so you can determine the time that you should plan on for these assignments.
Verbalize What You’re Doing
Get in the habit of describing what you’re doing when you’re writing on the board or giving instructions. It’s also helpful to use students’ names when you call on them and tell the visually-impaired student when you’re approaching or leaving them. Don’t be afraid to use words like “look” or “see.” Replacing these words can seem unnatural. It’s better just to use them when it makes sense to do so.
Above all else, remember that your visually-impaired student is not much different than any other student in your classroom. Take the time to get to know him or her. And if you have any questions about how to help, talk to your cooperating teacher and work out a plan to meet the student’s needs together.