Tip #4: There’s No Such Thing As Over-Communication With Your Children’s Vision Itinerant
Growing up, my sister and I had a Vision Itinerant who was responsible for meeting with our teachers and parents to go over our IEPs and any necessary modifications. She came to meet with us monthly in elementary school and every so often in middle school and high school. I always dreaded her visits, mostly because I didn’t like being taken out of class. I didn’t want to miss anything the other kids were doing. In addition, I had no idea what the purpose of her visits were, though I was fairly certain that her main goal was to remind me that I was different.
And the “activities” she had me complete during our meetings seemed to be designed to remind me how much I couldn’t see. Sometimes she had me look at poorly photocopied circus pictures, asking me to find blurred clowns and boxed cracker jacks amid crowds of people, a Where’s Waldo type of exercise that sighted children would have found fun. But I despised Where’s Waldo. Even if someone drew a big, fat circle around Waldo, I couldn’t find that slithering, slimy trickster. To me, these activities felt like one more vision test I was failing. I’m sure there was some kind of theory or point behind these exercises, but to a 2nd grader, they were just frustrating.
I remember in 3rd grade, my VI poured a bag of dry, brown beans all over the dark green carpeted floor of the tiny room we were meeting in, and had me practice picking them up. She taught me how to find the beans using a wide, light sweeping motion with my hands, something that I actually did find helpful. But I don’t think she communicated what we were working on with my parents because when I tried to use the same tacticle techniques at home, feeling around for items on the counter or floor, my dad told me to stop feeling around like Helen Keller. This isn’t a slam against my dad. He was very supportive growing up and always tried to find extracurriculars that my sister and I could excel at despite our vision. I think it probably worried him and made him uncomfortable, and perhaps he felt like I should use the vision I did have to look for things with my eyes. He probably had no idea that this is what I was being instructed to do. Hence, the importance of communication from your child’s VI on what types of skills they’re working on with your child so that you can follow it up at home.
I know these stories about breaks in communication are extremely frustrating for my parents to hear now, years later, because they spent hours and hours in meetings with our teachers and Vision Itinerants over the years. Obviously, my sister and I turned out just fine, so I would never bring these stories up if I didn’t think our own mishaps could help other families navigate the education system.
Having been a teacher in the public school system myself, I know that schools and districts are exceptionally talented at mandating lots and lots of meetings, many of which feel unproductive. In my opinion, brief, one-on-one communication with your child’s VI on a consistent basis is probably more beneficial than quarterly hour-long meetings. It’s a lot easier to have these interactions today, with e-mail, than it was when I was growing up, but if e-mail is not your thing, even quick phone calls help to keep the communication consistent.
Most educators are on top of things and care about the success of your child. If, however, your child’s teacher or VI is not communicating effectively, don’t be afraid to push harder, whether that means putting your expectations in writing or connecting with the principal. You are your child’s best advocate!