Your Child’s Educational Team

Understanding and Working with Your Child’s Teachers, Specialists, and Aides

No one person has all the necessary specialized knowledge and skills to meet your child’s unique needs. For this reason, the ” team ” concept is fundamental when promoting your child’s growth, development, and learning. Throughout your child’s school years, you will be working with various professionals to ensure that your child gets the educational services he needs for a successful foundation in life.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the educational team is crucial in your child’s education. This team varies based on each child’s unique needs and age. For young children, the team includes the family, focusing on both child and family needs. They create an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) detailing necessary services. After age three, the focus shifts to education. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is written, setting educational goals and outlining needed services.

Some of the team members provide what are considered “related services” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Related services are those required to help your child benefit from special education. There is no cost to you for these related services.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you are an integral and equal member of your child’s team, and your child, when appropriate, may also be a team member. Over your child’s lifetime, members of your child’s team will change regularly, but you will remain the one constant. As a parent, you know your child best, having seen their behavior and progress under all kinds of circumstances and over a period of time. Your input is crucial for understanding both abilities and needs. Team members, professionals trained in educating and rehabilitating visually impaired students, have specialized knowledge and skills to assess and instruct students. Your child benefits the most when we combine our efforts with yours.

Who Is On Your Team?

The most important members of the team will be professionals who specialize in working with children who are blind or low vision and those who work directly with him in the classroom:

  • Teacher of students with visual impairment: The teacher of students with visual impairment (TVI) is a professional with training in how a condition affects a child’s development and learning and in the strategies and tools that can assist your child in learning about the world, performing everyday activities, and participating in the regular curriculum in school. Regardless of your child’s age, the teacher of students with visual impairment will be a central member of your team (see “The Central Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments” for more information).
  • Orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist: The O&M specialist helps children learn to travel safely and independently in their environments. They also teach concepts about the body, space and direction, movement, and the physical environment to children of all ages. Even before a baby crawls or walks, the O&M specialist can give you ideas on how to help learn about your child’s body and the world around. (See “Working with the Orientation and Mobility Specialist.”)
  • Early interventionist: If your child is under three, an early interventionist might be part of your team. They support families of young children with disabilities and usually have a strong background in child development. However, they may lack experience with blindness or low vision. In such cases, collaboration with a trained teacher for the visually impaired is crucial.
  • Classroom teachers: Nowadays, most students with blindness or low vision attend public schools and receive instruction in general education classrooms alongside their sighted peers. Consequently, if your child is in a regular classroom, the general education classroom teacher becomes a key educational team member. This teacher will, therefore, work closely with the teacher of students with visual impairments. Specifically, they collaborate to gather information about the best ways to teach your child and to obtain class materials (refer to “The Central Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments”). Nevertheless, it is important to note that the primary responsibility of the classroom teacher is to teach the school’s core curriculum.

Other Support Staff on Your Team

  • Paraeducator: Paraeducators, also known as teachers’ aides, paraprofessionals, school aides, or teaching assistants, are occasionally tasked with assisting students who are blind or have low vision. They work under the supervision of the classroom teacher and teacher of students with visual impairments (refer to ‘Teaching Assistant Responsibilities’ for further details). They can be assigned to the classroom or to work with individual students who are blind or have low vision.
  • Other members of your child’s educational team may be specialists in other areas, depending on the individual needs. These team members may or may not have experience with children who are blind or low vision. Some professionals who are related service personnel commonly found on educational teams include:
    • Occupational therapist: Focuses on developing your child’s fine motor skills. These skills are essential for tasks like eating, dressing, and keyboarding.
    • Physical therapist: Specializes in enhancing your child’s gross motor skills. These skills are crucial for crawling, sitting, walking, and running.
    • Speech therapist: Also called speech and language pathologists, they help young children communicate better. They improve speech, offer alternative communication methods, and sometimes assist in developing eating skills.

The educational team might also include any of the following professionals, and if your child has multiple disabilities, there may be others as well: