Back to school is always a challenging time being that it is a period of stressful transition.
So I came up with some tips to help ease the transition. One thing that some parents have found helpful is to create an “All About Me” handout they give to new teachers and providers. They put a picture of their child on the front page. Inside the handout, they provide information on their child’s preferred colors (colors that elicit visual attention from the student), visual fields (areas of vision where items can be visually processed), distance viewing limits(the distance that the child will and will not regard a visual target), visual latency time(processing time it takes to notice or visually process an item), complexity limits(the number of elements a child can have in front of him and still process through the visual targets), and so on.
Another strategy I’ve seen for orienting new providers to your child’s visual needs is to create a visual diagram of what works for the student instead of presenting the information in narrative format. Using the colors green, yellow and red to indicate the areas to either present, cautiously present, or avoid presenting materials in is a good way to get across the child’s visual needs and this diagram can stay by the child(at their desk, on their wheelchair, etc.) to be a constant reminder when providers approach him.
A “Green” area would indicate that it is an area appropriate to elicit or maintain the child’s visual attention. A “Yellow” area would suggest caution in that this area may not be visually well regarded and only highly motivating and familiar visual materials should be positioned there. A “Red” area would mean that materials should not be placed in these areas as the child would likely not visually regard it.
Another important consideration is to thoroughly familiarize the student to the environment before the first day of school. Depending on the child’s Phase of CVI, it would be done differently. Making a simple map to represent the classroom/environment can be used for some children. Other children may require three-dimensional objects to represent a space, paired with consistent verbal or routine cues, in order to orient them to that specific area within an environment.
Previewing the space with a child in late Phase II or Phase III before and after walking through the space, using zoomed-in photos of salient features/landmarks on an iPad can help the child more efficiently locate salient areas within an environment.
Preparing the child for the upcoming transition is also vital. Making a schedule of the routines/classes of the day in their sequential order and going over this before the child leaves for school can help decrease the anxiety and ambiguity experienced by a student who does not have full visual access to their environment. The child’s Phase of CVI will dictate how the information is presented for the child’s understanding.