Preparing for Transitions
The Children's Learning Center at the Helen Keller Services for the Blind in downtown Brooklyn is a great example of an effective learning environment for students with visual impairments. All of the students in the preschool are visually impaired and often the students have several additional disabilities. That doesn’t stop them from being successful in school. This article from the New York Times discusses the successful graduates from preschool who are off to face new challenges at new schools. Although the center is an optimal learning environment for visually impaired children, it only serves children between 6 months to 5 years old. However, the center does its best to provide support for the transition into elementary schools.
At their new schools, most of these children will continue to be served through physical, occupational, and speech therapy. However, learning to work with new teachers and new classmates in a new environment can be quite challenging. The article says that one important thing to do is constantly celebrate the children’s accomplishments. Parents of these children have received some training in preparing for this transition. Just read the few examples from the parents below:
“Lindy Jones, whose son, Mikael, 4, is blind, said: ‘I expect him to have a little withdrawal. With everything, he has a problem with it at first.’ He is even uncomfortable trying out a new pair of shoes, she said. But Ms. Jones said she expected Michael to get acclimated fast, just as her son has learned to walk with a cane and begun to read Braille” (Vasquez, 2006).
“Mr. Santamoor said that the parents at the graduation ceremony may have actually learned as much as their children did at the center. For example, parents of children who had trouble walking were instructed on the finer points of using a cane, to allow them to help coach their children when they were at home. The parents have also been told what to look for at the new schools the children will attend to make sure they receive their fair share of attention” (Vasquez, 2006).
“Maria Carmen Navarro, whose son Juan, 4, graduated yesterday, said she had learned how to bridge the gap between the sighted world and that of her son, who lost vision in one eye to glaucoma. ‘I feel stronger now,’ she said. ‘I learned to understand him’" (Vasquez, 2006).
This article made me think about how important it is for teachers to assist students in the first few weeks of school during the transitional time. As a 6th grade teacher, I was not prepared on what skills I needed to teach the entire new class of students to the middle school level. After a month of leaving these skills out of my instruction, I realized I had to go back and teach the necessary skills for my students to survive in middle school. Although I did not teach any students with visual impairments, I think it should be a top priority for teachers to plan for ways to make the transition out of special learning centers and into regular education environments as easy as possible. Additionally, I feel that such training should be mandatory for all teachers, regardless of whether or not they teach regular or special education classes.
This page was added by Susan Oliver.
Vasquez, Emily. (2006) Little Graduates, With Some Big Tests Yet Ahead. The New York Times, June 22, 2006. Found online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/22/nyregion/22blind.html?ex=1186027200&en=2c69e080564cb66b&ei=5070