Dear Elementary School Teacher: Back to School Part I

I'm one of your new students for the year. You may have read my SAP, 504, or IEP- or maybe I don't have any of those yet. I'm still a little kid, so my support staff and my parents are still trying to figure things out. During the year, I would like to ask that you remember these ten things, so that I may be able to thrive in your classroom. I might admit these things, I might be too scared to say them, or I might not realize I need them. After all, right now I think that everyone sees the world just like me.

I color outside the lines, because I can't see the lines

When you hand me an intricate coloring page and tell me to color inside the lines, I might just scribble all over the page. I have no idea where the lines are, except maybe the large bold ones. In my mind, I am following your directions.

I can't see my friends on the playground, so I stay in one place

With all the kids running around on the playground, I can't keep track of who is who, or where they are going. For the most part, I stay in one area, like on the swingset, and wait for my friends to come find me. I'm not antisocial.

Computer games and applications might not be enlarged

Before you hand me a computer game or mobile application, check to see if it can be enlarged or made accessible- this checklist will help. If I stop interacting with the game or application, I might have come to a point where I can't see it anymore.

Also, when the rest of the class is learning how to use technology, make sure there are accessibility settings enabled on whatever device we are learning about.  Here is how to make iPad accessible (it takes less than ten minutes), how to make Android devices accessible, and also how to make Windows 10 accessible.

If I can't read something, chances are it's because I can't see it

When I seem to be having difficulty reading, it might not be the words themselves I am having trouble with, but how they are written. Use clear, bold fonts and enlarge them for me. If I'm having trouble reading handwriting, type it for me.  Here's an example of print accommodations.

I have trouble identifying everyday things, like money

When you hand me a $1 bill and a $5 bill for the money activity in class, I might not be able to tell the difference between the two, as they are the same size and color. Work with the teacher of the visually impaired or other staff member to teach me about money. I might have issues with other everyday objects too, like clouds, flowers, people, or textures.

Don't judge me on my ability to catch a ball

When you toss a ball at me, I can't see it coming, so I won't catch it. Yelling my name in a crowded room before throwing it won't help either- I am a child, not a bat, and don't have echolocation. Don't assume I have an intellectual or neurological disability based on whether I can catch a ball or not.

I don't know how bad my eyesight is

I'm still young and getting used to my vision impairment. I might have had this for a few years, or have been born with it. I don't know what perfect vision is like, and likely believe that everyone sees just like me.

Recommend me for services as soon as possible

If you think I could benefit from occupational therapy, speech therapy, reading support, or other types of interventions, please recommend me for them. Feel free to suggest new accommodations for my SAP, 504, or IEP too, and attend my meetings when you can.  Early intervention is key, as elementary school lays the foundation for middle school, high school, and eventually college. It is amazing what a small amount of help can do.

My vision is probably going to get worse

Since I'm still growing, my vision is going to change, and it will likely get worse. I might need larger print, Braille, or more assistance in the classroom. Don't remind me of how I used to see, as I am likely frustrated that my vision has changed.

Also, please don't try and take my new glasses off my face to see them, or crouch down and stare at my glasses. You're invading my personal space, and the light will hurt my eyes.

Don't yell at me

I'm not faking my bad eyesight, and I don't understand why I see the way I do. Don't get angry at me or my family because you don't want to teach a student with low vision. It's not my fault, nor is it theirs. I just want to learn.

I'm really excited to be in your class this year, and thank you in advance for the influence you will have on me. I hope you become my new favorite teacher!

Sincerely,

Your new student with low vision

Dear Middle School Teacher: Back to School Part 2

Dear High School Teacher: Back to School Part 3

 

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