Facilitator: Jane Ring, Parent, carer support officer, LOOK UK.
Featuring: John Milligan, Team Leader of the Norfolk VI service, and VIEW trustee, LOOK Mentor and TVI Rupert Mountjoy, and expert parent carers Dawn and Karen.
In May our themed Parent Support Group (PSG) met to discuss transitions and how to get tech ready for the future.
We know that having the right tech skills at the right time is crucial for our children and young people to thrive and no more so than during transitions in education.
Professionals shared the tech advice they give to their students to enable a successful transition as well as listening to positive stories from parents and carers about their children’s tech journeys.
We also heard from the young people themselves, about what works for them and the barriers they face in staying tech ready for learning.
You can watch the original session, here:
“Incredibly helpful session, thank you. Great speakers, and as the mum of a VI child about to transition to secondary I’ve picked up lots of useful tips.” Parent.
Tops Tips from our panellists.
John Milligan, Team Leader of the Norfolk VI service & VIEW trustee.
“One of the things we’re increasingly finding is that mainstream technology works increasingly well, it’s also quite portable and the idea of having something very mainstream lends itself to the preparation for adulthood.”
- The idea of using technology needs to be embedded as early as possible so that it becomes second nature.
- Download a copy of the Curriculum Framework for Children with a Vision Impairment (CFVI). This lists 11 areas of learning and you can use it as a basic document and be able to talk to your young person’s setting about how these areas can be covered in their transition and learning – CFVI Link.
- Get to know everyone who works with your child in relation to their VI. A friendly chat can go far!
- Know the power of getting in touch with your local voluntary sector providers. This might help with isolation, and provide an opportunity to share knowledge, experience and work through the system. And it could help siblings of VI children and young people.
Rupert Mountjoy, TVI and LOOK Mentor.
- Tech use is a brilliant way to help students become more independent. They rely less on teachers delivering work in their preferred format. In secondary school, teachers should ideally be emailing all the resources to a student who then accesses them on their device.
- Any tech used in exams has to be exam ready, eg, access to the internet is not allowed. Plan ahead with the exam office, school and QTVI to ensure the tech is ready and in place, in good time.
- Check out Rupert’s presentation on Ipad accessibility features in our resources section. You will find tons of great shortcuts and advice on how to get the best out of your tablet tech.
- You can use an iPad calculator for exams as long as there is no internet accessibility set up.
- Rupert’s Facebook page – LINK
Dawn, parent of a visually impaired child who has transitioned into Year 7.
- Look around schools early, from Year 5, to give yourself more time to consider your options. Research could include: Ofsted reports, speaking to ex-students, SENCO, and other VI students who may have attended.
- If you have an EHCP, ensure targets are up to date and everything is clear. This is a good time to think about any changes in tech access needs.
- Visit your new school at different times of the day, for example during busy periods, to assess the possible need for further support, eg leaving classes early to get to the next classroom before corridors become too busy.
- Think about emotional and social support and ways that you can introduce new pre-teen opportunities, such as involvement in local groups or summer camps. Dawn created a Whatsapp group, asking her child to gather phone numbers of other students she met during the first two weeks. She then invited these children to join them for crazy golf and this helped embed new friendships.
- Ask the school if you can use their disabled parking bay if you are a blue badge holder.
Dawn’s top tips for children.
- Trial your tech in advance.
- Try and get used to advocating for yourself more; you will need this at Secondary.
- Be prepared the night before; pack your bag and organise your uniform.
Karen, parent of a visually impaired child who has transitioned into Year 7.
“We were lucky to be able to visit the school, we had tactile maps, pre-visits, timetable, choice of classrooms. Who knew how important sockets are!”
- Ensure your EHCP is up to date and S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). Your child has a right to education and whatever help you need, you need to advocate for it.
- Ask if VI training can be included in the INSET staff training day for new teachers at the start of the term.
- Meet the site manager who will be responsible for colour contrast painting and putting sticker markers on equipment etc.
- Suggest a Transition Club to your QTVI. This is a great way for children to meet new friends and learn new skills such as self-advocacy, how to introduce yourself, and talk about your VI.
- Some schools allow children to take their CAT test at end of Year 6, with QTVI as a scribe and reader.
- Please find Karen’s advice-packed presentation HERE and learn how she prepared for her child’s transition.
Theo, LOOK Mentee aged 15.
“I’ve found lots of tech particularly helpful at secondary school, I mainly use my laptop and braille display on a day-to-day basis… it has a lot of processing power and supports a lot more of the programmes that everyone else uses.”
- Beware of some tech barriers that can be a continuing problem. You may need to speak to your school IT manager about their tech security firewalls preventing access to your learning. Passwords can also be problematic if they are changed without warning. Ask for your new passwords before starting at your new school and ask them not to be changed.
- All teachers should receive training on the tech you are using at school.
- Make sure you get specialised training as part of your tech provision in your EHCP. This could include training from the manufacturer if your QTVI can’t support your tech training needs.
- You can get advice from other users who might have been using the same tech for many years.
- You can find advice on tech in the Tactile Times tech section. There are a number of back issues that you can check. https://tactiletimes.org/
Lucas, LOOK Mentee aged 19.
- Lucas uses the inbuilt screen reader Voice Over. He uses this for reading websites, emails, Twitter, games, and staying in touch with people.
- You can change the pitch and speed and use it for imessages too.
- You can also use the Apple access functions for dictation.
- Siri is Apple’s virtual assistant and you can use it for opening apps and notes.
Watch here for Lucas’ guide to the assistive tech he uses.
“That was brilliant!! So good to see someone using the tech in everyday, real examples. Thank you!!” Parent.
Karina, LOOK Mentor and works at her Local Authority to Support Disabled People into Employment.
- Tech is very important in this role. Karina used tech from age 8 (word processor and printer at primary), and moved on to windows and a laptop with Supernova ( a combined package of screen reader and magnifier in one) at secondary school.
- Tech can be used for work, education and social needs. You need to know how to use a keyboard and a computer.
- Be prepared for what you need post-18 years old because the transition can be challenging.
- TAVIP (Technology Association of VI People) is a self-help organisation for people who have an interest in tech. They organise events, workshops and activities. Membership is now free.
Talking Transitions workshop resources:
- Rupert Mountjoy Ipad accessibility features resource.
- Parent Carer Karen – Preparing for transition presentation.
- Mentor reflections and advice.
- How to Help Your Child be Tech Ready for their Future – Top Tips.
- Transition – A Guide for Parent Carers of Visually Impaired Young People.
- LOOK Mentee Theo’s reflections on transitioning from primary to secondary school.
- Totally accessible calculator, suitable for A’Level maths: http://www.orbitresearch.com/product/orion-ti-84-plus/
A newspaper published by and for young people:
- Mantis Q 40 – Dual keyboard with qwerty and braille display.
- Tech grants for disabled children – Snowdon Trust.
- Disabled Students Allowance which can help pay for tech.
- Ability Net – Offers free online tech resources and volunteers to help with digital technology.