The Central Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments

The teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) is a central figure in your child’s team. The TVI is key on your child’s educational team for blindness or low vision. They understand how vision impacts learning and offer strategies and tools for learning and daily activities. Your child will work with the TVI regularly. The TVI often coordinates the team and supports other members, including you. This teacher is also known as a “vision teacher” or “TVI.”

TVI Role with Students

The specific responsibilities of the TVI with your child may vary, depending on your child’s age and needs. The goals the educational team sets for your child, the type of educational program your child participates in, and the policies of your particular school district.

  • Teaching the specific skills that your child needs to learn because of his visual impairment. Generally, these are adapted ways of doing everyday activities and methods of participating in the school curriculum, such as reading and writing in braille, using a low vision device, or independent living skills. These skills are often known as the expanded core curriculum.
  • Conducting various assessments of your child to determine abilities and needs.
  • Making referrals for additional services your child may need, such as for orientation and mobility (O&M) instruction or a clinical low vision evaluation from a low vision specialist.
  • Preparing or obtaining learning materials, textbooks, and examinations in the appropriate accessible format for your child (such as braille, large print, audio, or electronic format).
  • Analyzing the classroom and other environments for access and safety related to a student’s blindness or low vision, and advising other members of the team about how best to organize the classroom and materials.

TVI Role with Other Team Members

  • Working with you and other family members in various ways, such as helping you to learn skills you need to teach your child or suggesting ways to arrange your home or do household chores that will make it easier for your child to participate in family life.
  • Meeting with family members, your child’s regular education teacher, and other members of the educational team to discuss progress and make suggestions for strategies to make school work accessible and to include your child to the greatest extent possible in all school, classroom, and extracurricular activities.
  • Providing consultation and training for teachers, paraeducators, and other school personnel on effective strategies for teaching students with blindness or low vision.
  • Directing the paraeducator, if one has been assigned to your child or class, in providing support to your child.

Itinerant Teachers

TVIs are often “itinerant” teachers, traveling between schools in an area or district. They work with assigned students at each school. The TVI might assist your child in their regular classroom, an empty classroom, or a resource room. This could be alone or with a group. They may also meet with your child before or after school.

Sometimes, they observe to consult with the regular teacher about your child’s progress. Meeting frequency depends on your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or, for those under three, their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

Working with the Classroom Teacher

Because the TVI has an ongoing role with your child in teaching the expanded core curriculum, it’s important to understand that he or she is not responsible for teaching the general education curriculum that all students learn in school. That role belongs to the classroom teacher. The responsibilities of the classroom teacher with regard to your child might be summarized as follows:

  • Teaching academic and social lessons, grading, and managing discipline for all students, including those with blindness or low vision.
  • Giving textbooks and materials to the TVI promptly for accessible materials formatted timely.
  • Regularly communicating and meeting with the TVI to discuss your child’s progress and future educational and social needs.
  • Creating a classroom climate that is comfortable for all students.

The TVI’s role in the general education classroom is to collaborate with the teacher. This supports making the curriculum accessible to your child. They prepare materials in formats your child can use.

The TVI might teach key concepts before certain lessons. For instance, before a science lesson on eclipses, they might use tactile materials to explain planetary movements. This supports understanding for students with visual impairments before learning in a classroom. Close communication between the TVI and classroom teacher is vital for effectively addressing your child’s educational needs.

We would like to thank Diana Garcia-Mejia for writing this article.