I am blessed to have known one particular young person for almost 2 decades. She came to me in lst grade with little blind skills, and had a progressive eye condition. She loved print…large print and was determined to stay with it and nothing else. IN ADDITION, she would argue to stay with large print, if allowed. Consequently, it took her hours to do the work that the other children did within shorter periods of time.
I asked her if she wanted to learn how to do her work as fast as her friends did. She immediately said "Yes" but then added, "What do I have to do," with a concerned look on her face. I demonstrated the talking software on the computer and she was amazed at how fast my fingers flew across the keyboard and how I could not only get everything to speak for me, but I could get it to repeat and make that computer do anything I wanted. I had an older braille student demonstrate her fast fingers moving across a braille page, sitting up straight and tall and confident in her abilities. The younger child was impressed and hooked.
This young person was convinced this was the path for her…but not without "buyer’s remorse." The technology was easy. It always is for the kids. They pick it up incredibly fast and are pretty much independent with it within a couple of weeks. By third grade, she was emailing her work and receiving it back from the teacher. However, the braille was harder. It took more work. She got the idea of how much faster it was, but she still resorted to large print and could see it if she got a couple inches from the paper.
We compromised on her using the large print for everything but reading books, as I knew she would need to practice to become proficient but also to be ready for such little vision that she would not be able to use large print any more. You have to get students to "buy" into where you want to take them. If they are not on board, it will not happen.
I have had low vision children go from seeing large print in the spring to NOT seeing in the fall. I have had children come to me who had vision one day and woke with NO vision the next. This sudden loss brings with it terrible depression and a lack of will to do anything. We have no idea when loss will come, so be prepared. It takes a lot more effort to get the child turned around if they have no idea how they are going to handle life. I knew that if this young person learned those blind skills along the way, the transition would be far easier into the no vision.
Her sight loss was very gradual. Every year, she used the large print less and less and increased her Braille. She was already full on board with the technology so the output was easy for her, whether it was Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet, email or an adapted laptop with braille display. She had it down. She did not even have a bump in the road on her sight loss. The progression of gaining the blind skills made it easy. Though little sight, she had her VISION of who she was and what she was going to do in life and she just continued to gain the skills she needed to achieve those goals. She is in college now, pursuing those dreams and goals, happy and blessed with many friends and a great family and the ability to embrace life.