In this video, Macy gives ten tips for paraprofessionals working with blind and visually impaired students. The following list is a summary of the video.
Note: The need for a classroom aid should be decided on a case-by-case basis. All blind students do not need a para pro, and each student who does need extra help will need an individualized plan of action.
Tip 1: Maintain communication with the TVI. Every student’s needs are going to be different. The TVI should be able to give specific guidelines as to how best to help. TVI’s also have access to resources that might benefit the student and his or her teachers.
Tip 2: Let the Student be as Independent as Possible. If there is a way for them to do it on their own, they should be doing it on their own. It may be hard for the student to complete some activities independently, and it may take twice as long, but they will gain valuable skills by performing their daily tasks without help.
Tip 3: Let the student mess up. This applies to playing on the playground, walking to class, completing assignments, and almost every other aspect of life. It is important to remember that sighted students fall down and make mistakes every day, and a blind student is no different. Independence means messing up sometimes, but every mistake is an opportunity to learn.
Tip 4: Hang back when the student socializes. Every student has different social needs, but most blind individuals are capable of socializing with people their age without assistance. Some may need encouragement, but once they are with their peers, they should be left alone to have conversations and form bonds independently.
Tip 5: Don’t talk down to the student. Blindness is considered a disability, but being blind does not make a person any less capable of carrying on a normal conversation. Talking to a blind student more slowly, loudly, or simply than any other student is unnecessary and degrading.
Tip 6: Don’t walk on eggshells. Blindness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is ok to ask blind students questions about their vision and encourage them to talk about it. Blindness is a part of who the student is, and it probably always will be, so it is best for everyone to become comfortable with the subject.
Tip 7: Let others ask questions. No one should be scolded or punished for bringing up the topic of blindness. Punishing a student for discussing blindness is only going to make everyone more apprehensive around the blind student. Instead, questions should be encourage. Have the student read in braille to the class or blindfold their sighted peers and have them perform simple tasks. Then open the floor for questions. This encourages conversation about blindness and makes everyone more comfortable around the visually impaired student.
Tip 8: Let the teacher teach. By law, the teacher is required to prepare materials for and explain concepts to the blind student. There may be gaps to fill in, and the student’s education is always the first priority, but the teacher should be encouraged to interact with the blind student.
Tip 9: Encourage self-advocacy. Advocacy is one of the most important skills that a visually impaired person can have, and students should be practicing this from a young age. Have the student tell the teacher if they do not understand a concept or if an assignment is not modified correctly. Make them explain exactly what they need. Confrontation may be hard for them at first, but it will help them in the end to be able to articulate exactly what they need.
Tip 10: Constantly be teaching the student more skills that will help them be independent. If there is something the student cannot do on their own, teach them how. Find a way for them to do it independently, and be patient while they learn. The goal is for the student to eventually be an independent member of society, so it s important to prepare them for that as much as possible.