Most children with Retinal Degeneration complete their education in mainstream schools. For this to be successful support from both parents and teachers is a pre-requisite. Severely disabled children may benefit from the extra help and individual attention that specialized schooling provides. The decision should be made by the parents in consultation with experts. Each child should be regarded as an individual and no hard and fast rules can apply. With the correct support and assistive devices most children can remain in their safe and protective home environment and attend a local school.
Tips for Teachers:
- Ensure adequate lighting in the classroom at all times. If necessary a desk lamp for the child may be necessary. Switch on lights immediately after a film or video presentation.
- Allow the child to choose where to sit, closer or to the side of the blackboard.
- Allow extra time for completing tasks and assignments. A visual problem will often slow the child down considerably.
- Slow light to dark adaptation time is a symptom of Retinitis Pigmentosa and a child entering a dimly lit room will not have clear vision for up to 10 or 15 minutes.
- Ensure a verbal explanation accompanies all work written on the blackboard, whiteboard or overhead projector. A good quality printed copy of the work will allow the child to access it with an assistive device.
- Allow the child to write with a felt tip pen on heavily drawn black lined paper kept in files rather than feint lined exercise books. Children with Macular Degeneration cannot see these feint lines at all. Where possible allow the child to use a computer for projects.
- Ensure that the necessary assistive devices are provided so that the student can cope with visual tasks.
- Be aware of safety issues, in the classroom with suitcases left lying in corridors or of obstacles on field trips.
- Ensure that text books are made available for taping by specialist service providers in good time.
- Encourage the child to participate in extra mural activities where their visual loss will not inhibit their success, such as swimming, running, drama, chess or debating.
- Encourage open and honest discussion with the student and with class mates. Low vision simulators are a good way of demystifying vision loss and encouraging immediate understanding and empathy from staff and students alike.
- Encourage the student to articulate their needs but encourage them to achieve their potential without using their vision loss as an excuse for not trying.
- Ensure specialized career guidance is given to the student at appropriate levels.
Access technology has opened the world to people with low vision and stereotyping the child should be avoided at all costs. Encourage the child to develop an interest and a passion for something and explore the career possibilities that this passion provides. We live in an information based society and ensuring that the child has good computer skills will open this world of information to them.
People with moderate or even severe visual loss have successful careers in almost every field including:
Banking, Finance, Politics, Administration, Teaching, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Computer programming, Psychology, Beauty Therapy, Sales, Lecturing, Law, Public Relations and Gardening, but the list is endless.
Finding a successful role model and mentor for the child will often be all the motivation that they need.
Seek advice from your nearest retinal patient group.