Future Reflections Fall 1992, Vol. 11 No. 4
KATIE GOES TO FIRST GRADE
by Suzie Hanks
Reprinted from the Fall, 1991, GEM State Milestones, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho.
Suzie and Gardner Hanks are upbeat parents with a delightful six-year-old daughter who is totally blind. They have been successful in working out good support for Katie from the Boise schools. In many school districts in Idaho it would not be possible for a blind child to receive this much support in school. Furthermore, we believe it is not possible for any family with a blind child in Idaho to receive the kind of assistance the Hankses were given in Minnesota.
In this article, Suzie shares with other parents her excellent philosophy about how to work out an appropriate program for a blind child, and her experiences with and knowledge of legal requirements and procedures.
When we moved to Idaho three years ago (Katie was three), we were concerned about her receiving an adequate program. In Minnesota, Katie had a twice weekly visit from her teacher for the visually impaired, a twice weekly visit from her mobility and orientation instructor, and once a week visits from an occupational therapist and an infant stimulation specialist. These services were provided through our local school district.
In Idaho, we quickly realized that the three- to five-year-old program in the public schools was just starting and we had to be innovative and creative. We enrolled Katie in the Child Development Center and asked the School for the Deaf and Blind to provide consultation services. The Boise school district agreed to provide orientation and mobility instruction as well as consultation with the staff.
Creativity and flexibility have been the key to Katie's program ever since. She is now in first grade at Liberty Elementary, and we have been pleased with her program. Katie attends the regular school program except for her Braille lessons which are held in a resource room. The school district provides the services of an instructor for the visually impaired for an average of ninety minutes a day. In addition, he provides weekly mobility lessons. Three teacher's aids are starting Braille lessons so they can adapt material and teach Katie.
Though Katie does not read Braille at this time, her school books are Brailled, and the classroom aid adapts and Brailles handouts and art projects. Katie's classmates have an opportunity to be introduced to Braille.
We think of Katie's teachers, the administration, and us as a team. We work fairly well together because we share a vision of Katie's futureone of independence. We may disagree on how much emphasis one part of her school program should receive or when certain skills should be introduced, but the team shares a common goal of helping Katie become an independent, happy adult. This allows us to treat each other's ideas and feelings with respect and allows for compromise. We believe that Katie's blindness should not limit her future. Her school program, as for all other students, should help her reach her full potential.
I believe the following ideas help when dealing with school districts:
1. Be sure you and the school personnel see the same future for your child.
2. Prioritize those skills you want your child to achieve.
3. Prioritize services you wish the school to provide.
4. Focus on those at the top of the list. This is a long-term relationship. Don't battle over the trivial.