Week 1: July 1-6

I appreciate your response and perspective. One thing to remember is that all prereading is a literacy skill. I have several students in our multiple disability classes who, for a variety of reasons, are not readers…yet. But in my present levels I always make a point to say this student is in the prereading or stage of learning and is not currently a candidate for braille instruction, however would benefit from prereading skills such as … (ex: games with the option to sort or explore various textures and mazes to work on tracking a line.) While these look like play, they are actually prereading skills. Likewise my low vision or CVI students in the same type of classes are still working on literacy skills such as identifying the letters in their name or even just making choices in an array. It can be a stretch to thing of these things as literacy, but they’re all prereading skills that many typically developing kids learn incidentally. So with that said you are teaching reading and you’re doing a great job!

Reading Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments
2. Which author’s response is most influential to you? Why?

I am currently an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired for a K-8 school district in Arizona. I have been in this current role for 4 years. Prior to this, I was a general education 6th grade Language Arts teacher for 5 years. This past year, I had 3 emerging braille readers who were in general education classrooms. I saw each one of these students individually for 45 min- 1 hr/day 4 days a week (school only goes to school 4 days/week). Despite this amount of service time, I felt that overall my students had made some progress in their reading, but not nearly the amount of progress I was hoping for. This got me asking myself, “What can I be doing better or differently in order to help advance their literacy skills?”

Blankenship gives a call to action in her article, “The field will need to reexamine the itinerant model as its predominant service delivery system and determine whether such a model provides enough instructional time and intensity to provide research-based instruction in literacy, especially if teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired are to be held accountable for literacy instruction…”

This statement resonated with me because I believe that spending 45 minutes-1 hour a day with a student (while also trying to teach assistive tech, abacus, ECC skills, etc.) is never going to be enough time on it’s own to advance their literacy skills. With this amount of time, it is impossible for an itinerant TVI to be responsible for a student’s literacy without the support from the rest of the student’s team.

When I was a general education teacher, we would collaborate with all of the other 6th grade teachers to make sure they were reinforcing what we were teaching in ELA. For example, if we were working on using a new graphic organizer for an essay, the science teacher may also incorporate that into her lessons for the week. This way, students were getting more “hits” or opportunities to practice and learn the skill.

In the itinerant model, rarely are my students getting more “hits” of what they are practicing with me in the general education classroom in relation to braille (specifically, emerging braille readers still working on letter identification). I think the only way for them to get this, is to have the rest of the student’s team on board with basic braille instruction. However, this requires training, time, invested school staff, and resources.

I totally agree with all you said- I also always find myself thinking, “I wish I could be there all day with them.” It is also super difficult for teacher buy-in. Many times, I have worked with teachers who are emergency subs, not certified, first-year teachers, etc. and are already so overwhelmed with all of the other aspects of teaching, they don’t have the capacity to handle anymore.

Agreed with needing more meaningful and research-driven method of teaching reading. After working in the field these last few years, I definitely think that a foundations of reading course should be a part of the VI coursework at universities! I feel confident in braille code, but do not feel confident in strategies to teach beginning readers (ie. phonics).

I just recently heard that this was a thing. Do you find it helpful? Do you do it with just Braille students or have you done it for low vision students as well?

Hi Nicole,
Thank you so much for these helpful tips. My student has not been exposed to braille yet. My goal this year is to begin intro to braille, I love the idea of incorporating braille into her reading lessons. The district has approved 4x45 minutes per week with a 1x45 minute weekly consult. I feel that I might need more time.
Thank you again!

Hi, Sharon,

I am also a lifelong braille reader whose parents did not learn braille. My mom learned the alphabet, but I took to reading so quickly in school that my parents didn’t need to help me with my schoolwork. I can understand the advantage for parents to learn braille if their children are struggling in school, though. I teach braille to adults, and some of my students’ family members have expressed interest in learning the alphabet, which I believe is a positive source of motivation for those students to continue learning braille in my class. I also have adult students with reading difficulties that were not addressed when they were in school who may benefit from extra familial support while they learn braille.

Reading Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments: Whose Job is it? (JVIB, 2008, p. 197-209)

  1. What has your involvement with literacy instruction looked like in your role? What factors have limited your involvement in literacy instruction? Are those factors things that can and should be changed? Why or why not?
    As an itinerant TVI, my involvement in the literacy instruction process has looked different while employed with intermediate units versus my current role in a school district. Being a school district employee, I have noticed the ability to be more involved in the process specifically being invited to meetings in which I am able to collaborate with the reading specialist if one is present on the student’s team. At the beginning of the planning process, I have noticed many regular education teachers and reading specialist are often fearful due to a lack of experience and exposure in working with students who are blind and or are visually impaired. Typically, once the process begins and the regular education/reading specialist staff see the amount of support provided by the TVI they provide great ideas, resources and techniques to the materials that will be used for the other children in the grade level or class. Time can definitely become a hurdle to overcome as most itinerants are assigned to several geographical locations and may need to be creative in fitting the planning sessions into their schedules. With the use of zoom, team collaboration has definitely become easier and allowed for more collaboration even if the meeting only lasts 15 minutes.
    I genuinely believe supervisors do their best to create caseloads for itinerants allowing them to be involved in the planning process specifically focusing on all components that a particular student may need. There are always exceptions to every situation that limit an itinerant’s caseload to have additional time making it challenging to be a part of the planning process as well as have the open communication with the other specialists that need to be a part of the process. With some planning and communication, the above mentioned hurdles can usually be addressed and modified. It is always in the best interest of the entire team to make sure the collaboration takes place as a great team can make the difference needed for a student.
  2. Which author’s (Blankenship, Swenson, Farrenkopf, or Holbrook) response is most influential to you? Why?
    In this article, I related most to the comments and responses made by Holbrook. Holbrook references the topic of teaching the braille code and learning beginning reading in braille. She poses the question of teaching the braille code and separating beginning reading in the context of whether or not those two should or could be separated explaining that they cannot. That statement resonated with me as I believe often times this is attempted but should not be for any students. After a functional media assessment is completed and it is determined that a student will be using the braille code as a primary media for academic materials it is the job of the team as a whole to determine how to provide the best access to the curriculum to the student. The braille code is the method in which the media is presented to the student just like we would present media using lines, circles etc to a student that is low vision.

Hi there. I was reading your post about having some difficulty in collaborating with school psychologists. Your comment hit home for me in regards to this area of struggle. Like many itinerants, school psychologists often have very large caseloads they are trying to juggle along with taking the time for report writing and being involved in the team collaboration process. I’ve spoken and collaborated with several school psychologists in the my district who have expressed their concerns and have done their best given time constraints. Oftentimes, school psychologists rely heavily on making sure the test that is provided to a student that needs to be modified doesn’t lose its validity as well as needing to note that in the assessment as well as noting it to the family during the meeting.

@kkaczmarski I was reading your post and kept saying Yes, yes, yes to your comment about teacher buy-in. This is so important when working with the whole team and always reflects when there is general buy-in from the team.
I also relate to your comment about time and having enough of it to effectively plan as there are days that just feel like no matter what there is not enough time to accomplish everything for a student. I’ve always felt like there is always one student who I feel as though doesn’t receive the instruction, prep and time needed to provide the best instruction and time needed.

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Thankfully our ophthalmologist do not list us as the provider for vision therapy, they either say “could benefit from vision therapy” or “recommends services from a Teacher of the Visually Impaired” but I have seen more and more reports from RightEye Vision System. The first one I received I had no idea how to read it. I was only given that and not an actual eye report with acuity.

Summer 2024 Cohort, Kelli Bustillos

  1. What has your involvement with literacy instruction looked like in your role? What factors have limited your involvement in literacy instruction? Are those factors things that can and should be changed? Why or why not?

My involvement in literacy instruction has looked different depending on the student like was stated in our videos this week. An older student with a progressive eye condition already knows print so may just need instruction in braille, not necessarily reading and writing. A younger student who is blind I have had to teach literacy hand in hand with the braille since they are learning reading and writing skills. The factors that have limited my involvement in literacy instruction have been time, since there is only so much time in a given school day.

I also said time was a constraint. It never seems like there is enough of it in a school day.

1.My role in literacy instruction, unless a student is learning braille, is focused on skills and tools that will allow students to access the materials they need to be a full participant in their classroom community. The literary materials used are at student reading level rather than grade level. Seeing most students for 30 minutes weekly is such a small amount of time that I focus on what will get the child closest to independently accessing material on a day to day basis. I may work on letter reversals, visual motor skills, AT, magnifiers or CCTVs. If during the instructional session I have the opportunity/need to teach to the 5 core components of reading instruction, I do so thereby increasing meaningful, focused instruction as it is relevant to the student and their immediate needs. If however, I am teaching braille, I begin with the student’s full name followed by whole words connected to the letters of the student’s name into sentences made up using these words. (I am blessed to have the support of a full -time braillist who is able to produce materials for me daily if needed) .

There are many factors limiting my involvement in literacy instruction. Finding time to meet with classroom teachers beyond a beginning of the year meeting to discuss each student’s need is a major factor. Most times this is because my schedule and the classroom teacher’s schedules simply do not allow this; other times, the classroom teachers just have so much on their plate that they do not feel they can meet to discuss content, lesson focus etc. Yet another factor is the specialized needs of students who need services of a TVI. instruction beyond that of an Intervention Specialist. The proportional amount of time a student is with me in relation to the gen ed teacher, the intervention specialist or the literacy specialist in a week is almost negligible; less than 1% of their weekly instructional time. During that time, we don’t always get through the visual access task/skill. I imbed literacy skills in this instruction, but 95% of the time, this literacy is disjointed from the student’s classroom material as I need to make sure I have materials I need when I leave my office to ensure that I have
It absolutely takes a community to teach a child reading. I have a strong background in the foundations of reading but one limitation of being a TVI is the time I have access to support each student.
4. This could be a double edge sword. On the pro side of removing the modifiers, a student who is being negatively impacted by any type of visual impairment would be able to receive services. On the con, a child with 20/40 could receive services. There would be such an enormous need for TVIs

I have also found an influx of students due to the removal of the modifiers and although we are to serve based on need not availability, sometime the reality is that we are only 1 person and can only do so much. In reality, I find that I take both pieces into account-how much service does this child need and how much can I realistically provide.

Hello Lacey! I’m finding that we have a few fellow TSVI’s taking this course! Of course, I am very familiar with our state’s information paper on educating students with visual impairments. And in this updated informational paper (2022), it includes the ocular motor impairment as a recognized visual impairment. As you stated at the end of your entry, we determine after evaluation, does the eye condition, no matter if it’s “atypical” adversely affect a student’s educational performance.

Hello Sharon, I like that you spoke about the importance of having all of the characteristics to successfully teach literacy to a range of students with visual impairments who also have other conditions that need to be factored in. Therefore, it’s essential that a consultant not be solely responsible to follow through with the student’s instructional repertoire. I agree this should be the responsibility of the TVI who is invested in the student’s instructional process. I also align with Holbrook’s belief that this is a team approach with the responsiblity for literacy education being placed on all of the members on a student’s team.

It was really interesting that you brought up the point about differences in how a student can receive instruction from year to year, when they change teachers. If one year they were taught by an itinerant and the next year they were taught by a classroom teacher who is teaching differently, this can impact how the student progresses in literacy instruction. I think about the fact that many itinerant TVI’s are so overworked due to the shortage of TVI’s in many states, but then I also see shortages even within a larger school as I work in, we still struggle to hire qualified teachers to fill our positions.

Hello Allie, I so enjoyed reading your response regarding direct instruction and appreciate what you are saying about finding ways to “motivate” our students to become more enthusiastic and invested learners (as Swenson referred to as being the key to successful literacy). I can appreciate the amount of time if must have taken you to create the strategies you have utilized over the years. Remember that even with direct instruction, we can always fall back on our “toolbox” to add in a different aspect to spark a student’s interest so they will become more engaged. During the direct instruction you can add in fun elements to motivate your students, which I am sure you already do. Thanks for your response, I too think about delving into a student’s interest to keep them engaged. What I find challenging is when we first get our student on our caseload and we do not yet know what makes them tick, what can motivate them, what many of their interests might be. Thanks for your response.

Hello Amy, I am curious about this OSEP 2017 memorandum. You mentioned that has been tricky to clarify the decisions driven by the IEP team to set up an evaluation for a child’s individual needs through “Specially Designed Instruction.” My confusion lies with whom responsibility lies to provide the “guidance” for this decision-making process. Is this guidance to be determined at the state level or nationally? Who then provides this guidance–a consultant or administrator?

Hi Everyone, I’m just getting back from an international trip so I’m a bit late to my responses. I will answer the following question below:

  1. Which author’s (Blankenship, Swenson, Farrenkopf, or Holbrook) response is most influential to you? Why?

I connected most with Swenson’s approach and reasoning towards the role of the Vision Teacher being the most influential and “laying the foundation of literacy skills” in teaching literacy and braille to their students. Through my experience this year with my kindergarten braille student, I fully agree with Swenson’s reasoning that to teach braille to a young student means “teaching reading.” The two are inseparable and I found that as I was teaching my kindergarten student the braille code I also had to teach her the letter sounds and introduce the blending of letter sounds to make simple two and three letter words.
I also found that with learning the braille code, my student not only was beginning to learn the correct dot formations for the letters of the alphabet and to begin tactually discriminating braille with the pad of her fingertips, but she was wanting to “write” like her peers. I began to use real opportunities like Swenson mentions, making the learning more practical and applicable for my student, as she asked to braille names of her students and words such as her favourite foods, activities and classroom items that she was introduced to. This made it more meaningful for her and she also became more comfortable to share her learning with her peers in small groups. It was really great to see her teach her peers, in groups of one or two, parts of the braille code and for her peers to practice brailling their own names on the Perkins Brailler.
I also connected with Farrenkopf’s article, as she brought up the importance of having a team to work together to support the literacy and braille learning of our students. The juggling act and the resource limitations described by Farrenkopf in her school board in Toronto is very similar to the challenges that my school board faces – limitations with time for our braille students, no coverage if we are sick or away for leaves, hence leading to more re-assigning caseloads and our low vision students receiving less supports as our braille students need to be prioritized as best we can.
The connection and communication to the literacy/main classroom teacher is also key in our role. We need to ensure our students are receiving the core curriculum and this core curriculum is adapted for them in order to access fully and at the same time we need to ensure that we have planned time in the day to teach the expanded core curriculum, which is a challenge to fit in.
What Swenson mentioned about the need to front load and prioritize the teaching of braille early on in the school years in order for our students to have the tools ready to access later in the grades is so true and that has been my driving force to ensure that my kindergarten student learns the braille code now and begins to read now so that she is ready for grade 1 when we need to cover more core curriculum at a faster pace. Finding the time has been tricky but I have been able to find quiet time during the middle of the day, when the class goes out for an extended time of outside play – we work on braille for up to 45 minutes and then join the class outside for the second half.
What I take away from the readings is how complex and important our role is and how delicate our teamwork and interactions with the greater education team is to ensure that our braille students do not fall behind and are building the foundations they require in order to work with their peers at grade level in the upper grades. The quote below from Swenson will keep me grounded in my work with my young braille student:
“Braille readers have a much greater chance of
participating fully in mainstream literacy instruction during the remainder of their schooling if they develop solid literacy skills and a
positive attitude toward reading and writing in their first few years of school.”