From Amy Shepherd, MDE-LIO Parent Liaison, MEd
I know what you’re thinking: Summer is almost here, and the last thing I want do is think about next fall. I get it! However, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. Below are a few steps for parents of students who are Blind or Visually Impaired (BVI) to help ease the back-to-school transition in the fall.
Talk About Progress
Having important conversations while your children are still in school can be the key to a smooth transition back to school in the fall. This is a great time to meet with your child’s teacher for the visually impaired (TVI) and orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist. Seize the day and schedule a time to meet in person, on the phone, or virtually.
Review your child’s individualized education program (IEP) and talk about his progress during the past year. Note which goals were met and which ones need more work. What went well this year and what was a challenge? Ask your TVI for resources for practicing braille, reading, and math skills over the summer. MDE-LIO’s Expanded Core Curriculum section also has resources for skill-building activities.
Make sure you understand any assessments that were conducted during the year, such as eye exams, functional vision assessments, learning media assessments, and others. Ask if there are any new evaluations that would help track your child’s progress.
Think ahead to the fall: What challenges might you anticipate for the fall, and what supports can you put in place now to help ease those challenges? For example, if your child will be attending a new school, schedule a few O&M lessons to visit and explore the building before school starts. If the challenges are more complex, or if the IEP is not meeting your child’s needs, consider requesting an IEP team meeting before the end of the year to address your concerns.
Are your student’s textbooks ordered for next year? If not, now is the time to order them. As a parent, you can help gather a list of textbooks for the next school year by working with your child’s TVI or the school case manager in charge of your child’s IEP. You can also ask the teachers which textbook they will use. For example, if your student will be taking 7th grade science next year, ask the 7th grade science teacher which textbook she uses. Do the same for other subjects.
Next, your child’s TVI may request a book from MDE-LIO in braille or enlarged print. The TVI will need the following information for each book:
- Copyright year
Making sure your student’s books are ordered before the end of the school year is a great way to make sure they will be ready for the fall.
Consider Assistive Technology Needs
If you are anything like me, keeping track of assistive technology devices and cords can be a challenge, especially when they are stored over the long summer break. The key to having assistive technology devices ready when school starts is to plan ahead. Consider the following questions:
- Who will store the adaptive tools and devices my child uses at school? Where will they be stored?
- Can assistive technology be used at home over the summer?
- Will any hardware updates or repairs need to be made over the summer?
- Will my child need to learn how to use new or different technology in the fall?
Think about any practical skills you can work on with your student at home, such as touch typing, downloading digital books for pleasure reading, using the map feature on a phone, adding a new phone contact, or playing computer games. MDE-LIO’s Assistive Technology page has some resources to help you get started.
Practice Independent Living Skills
Summer is the perfect time to hold your child accountable for taking care of herself and helping around the home. Your child will have many chances to develop confidence and self-esteem while learning to do tasks independently, such as:
- Making the bed
- Doing laundry
- Preparing a snack
- Taking out the trash
- Walking the dog
Empower your child by giving her responsibility! Talk to your TVI and O&M specialist to find resources for practicing new skills at home over the summer. Other resources below offer quick and easy suggestions for building independent living skills within your daily routine at home.
MDE-LIO BVI Family Support page
Calendars and checklists on the MDE-LIO Independent Living Skills page
Washington State School for the Blind Video Clips on Blindness Tips
Plan for Extended School Year Services
Spring is the time to start thinking about educational resources that might be available to your child during the summer. Many districts offer extended school year programs for students who need additional supports to hold onto what they’ve learned and to build on emerging skills.
Extended school year programs allow students to get more instruction and practice for specific IEP goals. Each district is different, so talk to your TVI now about your child’s options. If extended school year programming was not discussed and included in your IEP, consider requesting an IEP team meeting to talk about it and make a plan. For more information, visit Michigan Alliance for Families’ Extended School Year page.
Summer Activities and Camps
One of my favorite parts about summer is camp! Camp Tuhsmeheta (Camp T) traditionally provides a magical camp environment in which students who are BVI can experience traditional camp adventures such as swimming, archery, canoeing, hiking, navigating a ropes course, and climbing a rock wall.
Camp T currently offers virtual and distance-learning programs instead of in-person camps. Whether in-person or at home, Camp T programs include lessons in areas such as:
- Independent living skills
- Recreation and leisure
- Social skills
To learn about summer camp programs outside of Camp T, reach out to your TVI and O&M specialist. Below is a list of Michigan organizations that have traditionally offered summer programs: