Visual impairment

Who are we?

The Visual Impairment Team is part of the Sensory Impairment Team within the Special Educational Needs and Disability Service. We are a team of specialist staff, comprising of qualified teachers of the visually impaired (QTVIs) and teaching assistants (TAs) working to promote the educational inclusion and achievement of children and young people who are blind or with a diagnosed sight difficulty.

What do we do?

We support children who are visually impaired from the time of diagnosis to when they leave school / college.

The team works closely with families of pre-school children, helping them to understand the diagnosis, offering advice and support. We visit children in their home, early years’ setting, opportunity group or school. Working closely with families, teachers, mobility officers and medical professionals means we can offer tailored and targeted support aimed at helping children and young people achieve their potential. In conjunction with the setting, specialist equipment and training can be provided.

The level of support offered to each child and family is based on the child’s needs, their stage of development and the knowledge and support that they have around them.

It can include:

  • Support for and liaison with parents
  • Training and advice for school staff
  • Signposting parents, carers and staff to other appropriate agencies
  • Contributing to the assessment, monitoring and reporting of needs both formally and informally
  • Providing advice on access to the curriculum, target setting and record keeping
  • Providing programs of support including help to promote the use of functional vision and social and emotional interventions.
  • Attending annual reviews and other multi agency meetings as appropriate
  • Representing the needs of children and young people to officers in the LA and help the child/young person express his/her views
  • Providing direct teaching to children working on specific skills (eg Braille) as appropriate
  • In conjunction with the school, providing equipment/ICT to support pupils’ needs within the setting if their visual impairment hinders/prevents curriculum access and recording
  • Providing training on the use and maintenance of equipment
  • Advising on special arrangements for examinations
  • Providing advice on adaptations to the environment
  • Programmes of habitation skills when necessary, including early movement skills, spatial and body awareness, cane training and route planning.
  • Programmes of independent living skills when required.
  • Observing children/young people within their settings and provide feedback for staff

Who is the service for?

We work with visually impaired babies, children and young people both with and without additional special educational needs and disabilities. For a more detailed description of our referral criteria please click link below

Referral Criteria for Sensory Impairment – updated July 2015

Sorry we are not able to support children and young people with a visual perception problem that is not accompanied by other concerns identified by the eye clinic or children/young people with dyslexia or Irlens Syndrome.

How can I start using the service?

Referrals to our team come from Health Services at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, if you have concerns regarding your child’s vision your first port of call should be your GP. If necessary your GP will refer your child to specialist ophthalmic services within your area who will then refer (with your permission) to our team. For children with a visual impairment referred to this service and who meet the criteria for visits, contact is made as soon as possible with the family and/or school and an initial visit arranged within a half term (excluding school holidays).

Diagnosis

The eye clinic will provide a diagnosis of your child’s sight loss and, depending on certain criteria, will refer your child to our service. The teacher will aim to support in the following ways:

  • Give information on what the visual impairment means.
  • Offer advice how best to support your baby/child at this time.
  • Give information regarding local and national support networks.
  • Answer any questions you wish to ask about the diagnosis

Next step: The service will become a regular support system and you will be assigned to one of the members of our team. The frequency of our visits will be agreed dependent upon the degree of visual impairment and level of support needed.

Home support

Depending on your child’s needs our team will continue to support your family to:

  • Work with you on strategies for developing skills.
  • Introduce you to the developmental journal for visually impaired babies. This protocol will help you to recognise areas in your child’s development and we will work together to suggest how to progress.
  • Give you advice on all areas of visual development or tactile methods of learning
  • Introduce your family to local services such as Wiltshire Sight, other related local groups.
  • Introduce your family to national services such as Blind Children UK, RNIB.
  • Support your family during appointments at the eye clinic where appropriate.

We will have regular communication with you and other professionals through written reports, meetings, annual reviews where appropriate, telephone contact, e mails and/or school / home visits. From the information shared in these situations, you will be informed of any progress the child / young person is making and whether any additional support/intervention is required if the expected progress is not being made.

Sight tests

The eye clinic will gradually get a more detailed picture of your child’s sight loss and share with you a clinical report. Glasses, if prescribed, will be specifically made for your child.

The visually impairment team will carry out regular functional visual assessments to inform yourselves and the educational setting about how your child is managing to access activities and the environment around them.

Our team can:

  • Accompany you at ophthalmology appointments if required.
  • Liaise closely with the ophthalmologists.
  • Provide support to help you decide on pre-school placements

Pre-school/Nursery

At preschool/nursery you can expect your child to have a key worker who will work closely with a small group of children. The setting will have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) who will ensure that your child’s needs are catered for.

Your QTVI can:

  • Contribute to a My Support Plan for your child (link to rest of Local Offer).
  • If it is considered necessary then assessments will take place to support the consideration of an Education Health and Care Plan (known as a My Plan in Wiltshire).
  • Visit your child’s placement or childcare to give advice to the staff on strategies to help your child progress.
  • Your QTVI may suggest, carry out or monitor specific activities which the setting can continue to work on.
  • Support you with information on transition to school.

Next Steps: At this stage it will be necessary to think ahead as to which school you would like your child to attend. Often the preschool/nursery you chose will feed into the school you would like, but not necessarily. Your child is said to be in ‘Nursery’ during the year before starting school.

School

As a parent or carer you will need to decide on which school you would like your child to attend. This is most likely to be a local mainstream school in Wiltshire. The placement will involve planning with yourselves, the school and the VI service in plenty of time to ensure your child’s needs can be met. Additional support will be put in place depending on the degree and implications of your child’s sight loss. If your child has complex needs then you may decide that a Wiltshire special school may be more appropriate to meet their needs.

In a mainstream school our team can:

  • Provide training to the staff in your child’s setting if required.
  • Provide support throughout primary school. The level of support will depend on the degree and implications of the sight loss.
  • Monitor your child’s progress and give advice on areas where he/she may not be achieving at the appropriate level.
  • Ensure that any low vision aid equipment is in good order and being used appropriately.
  • Work with the class teacher/SENCo to ensure full access to the curriculum.
  • Discuss any social issues which you or your child may be concerned about. We can provide training to visually impaired pupil’s peers if appropriate.
  • Provide Sighted Guide Training as appropriate.
  • Encourage your child to become competent in caring for his/her glasses and equipment and to be an independent learner.
  • Provide and maintain any other specialist equipment required.

During the My Plan process and reviews, other possible school options may be discussed. These include placements such as specialist schools and colleges for children and young people with sight difficulties. These may include New College, Worcester, West of England School and the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC).

Who can I contact for further information?

Cartoon representation of Wiltshire
Wiltshire Council