Wylie Has Special Program for Blind Students
The Wylie school district’s program for its visually impaired students isn’t just about teaching lessons – it’s also about creating independence.
“One of the main things I want is for them to have access to anything that their sighted pears have and to become as independent as possible,” said Dianne Field, Wylie’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. “Independence is the mission.”
Wylie has nine students in its visually impaired program. All are in regular classes but also meet regularly with Field, who makes sure they have the equipment and resources they need to thrive.
“I’ve got kids at various stages,” Fields said. “I have two that are totally blind, and the others have some kind of visual impairment.”
Before the school year starts, any teacher who is going to have a visually impaired student in his or her classroom goes through special training. The teachers also meet once each six weeks to discuss techniques that work best for their students.
“Many of the teachers have never had a blind student,” Field said. “We try to work with them as to where students need to sit in the room, what kind of lighting they need, whether they need large-print text books, whether they need things done in Braille. “
During training, Field also tried to show teachers what life is like for their visually impaired students.
“We gave them each a blind fold and had one be the guide,” Field said. “When you are blindfolded you have to trust the person. Half way through, they switched roles. It reiterated that you have to think where that student is coming from. You had to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It was a fun way to make everybody think.”
One thing teachers do on a daily basis to help visually impaired students is make sure assignments are available in a way that students can complete them. For some, that means extra-large type. For others it means assignments in Braille.
Wylie has a Braillist, Glenda McDonald, who converts needed assignments into Braille.
“It’s amazing what she does,” Field said. “She has a special computer. That’s what she does all day long for the kids who need things in Braille. She does an amazing job.”
Field also works with the students to provide equipment that will help them be more independent. She said students are benefiting from amazing advances in equipment.
“There is just an amazing amount of equipment right now that is available,” she said. “It is fun to see the students get excited to get to do something that they did not realize they would be able to do.”
Equipment can range from calculators that use Braille or equipment that is voice-controlled.
“One of our Braille students has a special computer, and she can take notes and do her assignments in Braille and then send it to her teachers, and her teachers can read it in print,” Field said. “Something they have on their wish list is a pair of glasses that can recognize up to 100 faces. It has a little camera on the side of the glasses. You can take it to the grocery store and look down at the bar code, and it will tell you what it is.”
Field said the equipment helps Wylie in its goal of providing independence for the students.
“The independence that is available now to kids that might not have been able to be independent is just wonderful,” she said. “It’s amazing to me what these kids are able to do.”
She said Wylie’s teachers and their dedication to helping each student succeed is also amazing.
“I have been so proud of the teachers this year,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to have a student who can’t see in your classroom. Our teachers do an amazing job to give them what they need. We just have a group of teachers and aides and principals that have a great heart for kids and want them to be as successful as they can be.”