Sophie just wants to complete her schoolwork at home like all the other children in her class. And her mum, Georgina, just wants to help her. But home-schooling during lockdown has been full of challenges for the family.
Sophie, age seven, was born with a sight condition called Aniridia, which affects her iris, and Nystagmus, which causes involuntary movement in her eyes. To access her schoolwork, Sophie uses size 64+ font, an electronic magnifier and she’s also learning braille.
Sophie’s mum, who has the same condition and is registered blind, has found it extremely difficult to support her daughter’s learning at home. Unable to see large print, Sophie’s mum has found all the school’s documents inaccessible, and was spending hours online everyday trying to find learning resources that she could read with JAWS, her screen-reading software. She was feeling exhausted and stressed.
Sophie was receiving daily reading lessons with her teaching assistant via video call, and twice-weekly braille lessons with her QVTI, which the family say have been brilliant. But the rest of the school day was a constant struggle. The worksheets provided by the school weren’t accessible with JAWS software, and the staff didn’t seem to understand the family’s unique requirements.
After Sophie’s mum called the Guide Dogs Advice Line, our Education Support Officer was able to speak directly with the school.
We firstly suggested that worksheets are provided in a more accessible word format. Then, after speaking with the school’s SENCo and explaining the challenges, they suggested increasing Sophie’s daily video link teaching to include an additional hour for maths. The school also agreed to arrange a loan of tactile equipment, such as plastic numbers and symbols to help with the maths lessons.
We were also able to advise Sophie’s mum on other helpful resources and provided information on specific SATS requirements for children with a vision impairment, such as the standards required around cursive handwriting.
The school also later arranged for Sophie to come into the school each day for a morning of one-to-one lessons with her teaching assistant and twice weekly visits from her QTVI, which has made Sophie happy.