Photo Caption: Spiral notebook homework page
It’s back to school time so I’m dusting off some of my blind parent “lessons learned” which I used to help us have a successful school year. Today I’m sharing some tips for dealing with those daily items that your kids bring home.
So, if you have kids in school, you already know the volume of paperwork that comes home on a regular basis. Managing all of this when you can’t read half or all of it can be a challenge. Thankfully in the past, our teachers have been pretty good about emailing all the class parents when important notices are coming home (i.e., permission forms, flyers about an upcoming school event, a class or school need, etc.) so I know to look out for it or ask my child about it. But even if your teachers do this, I’ve found it is still best to try and go through these items daily if possible (or as regularly as you can) so as not to miss anything—not to mention you can keep up on your child’s progress by reviewing his assignments. .
Photo Caption: Homescreen of a smart phone.
For starters, using apps like Seeing AI, the KNFB reader mobile app, Be My Eyes, or a magnifier app (if you have some usable vision can make daily reviewing of papers much more doable. . You could also use a desktop version of a scanning program like Kurzweil. There are a lot of different types of free or inexpensive open source scanning programs out there too, so if you’re not familiar with one, I suggest you talk to a blind tech friend, or contact a local technology assistance program to familiarize yourself with one of these tools. They will be worth their weight in gold and save you so much time and headache. I’d also suggest making this part of your nightly homework routine so that you don’t get bogged down with paperwork. Since we can’t skim these kind of items “at a glance” like our sighted counterparts, you’ll want to try and keep up on it since it may take a bit more time to review these items with whatever method you choose.
Photo Caption: Two small boys wearing floppy hats and overalls sitting on grass reading to each other.
Use a Reader
Another good idea is to include these papers in a session with a reader (like if you have someone who works with you on a weekly basis to read mail.) Using readers is also a great way to fill in things like permission or registration forms. Perhaps you have an assistant at work who could take five minutes every morning to browse through your child’s papers and notify you of any important info or read those quick handouts that often come home. You could also hire a neighbor (like a teenager who wants to earn a little extra money) to come over every day for a half hour or so and go through papers with you.
Photo Caption: laptop keyboard and tablet
Another great tip is to go paperless as much as possible. You can do this by subscribing to PTA email lists, review the school and county websites regularly, and get access to your school’s regular newsletters. For a time, our school’s electronic version of the newsletter was sent out in a non-accessible PDF format, so we arranged for the school to send home a paper version which we can scan and read ourselves. Most schools are supposed to offer both versions anyway to accommodate for families who may not have access to electronics or Internet. In any case, reviewing these things online is a more accessible way to keep up on important school info and a lot of the same announcements are replicated in handouts that come home with the students, so you can cut down the amount of stuff you have to read in hardcopy. Just as a side note, your child will probably bring scholastic book order forms home all the time. Generally, your teacher and/or school have a code that tracks your purchases to raise money for the school. You can view and order most of these items online and still use the codes, so ask your teacher to email this info to you if this is something of interest to you so that you can browse and order online and skip the paper all together.
Read in Real Time!
Lastly, here are some “out of the box” ideas: take a photo or use a service like Skype or Facetime to ask a friend or family member to browse these kinds of things for you. Grandparents especially may love being included in this way. These could be great ways to go over things like a test with your child’s handwritten answers that a teacher is asking you to review and sign, or to have a worksheet or diagram explained that can’t be read by some kind of text reading program. Services like Ira can also be helpful for this, but keep in mind that you’ll be paying for this time. Lastly, enlist your child. (Depending on their age and an abilities.) This is a great way to build reading skills, reinforce concepts, and teach responsibility.
So there you have it. WE use a mix of these same things and sometimes things work better than others, but the main point is to find what works for you and be willing to try new methods that may be more effective. Let me know what methods you’ve found that work best for you. Good luck!