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Visual impairment - please help! To Ed Psych or not Ed Psych?

(32 Posts)
LightAFire Tue 30-Apr-13 14:34:22

I just posted this in chat and realised I should have gone for children instead! So I will put here too in the hope that someone can help:

Hello there, I'd be very grateful for some advice. A very close friend of mine has a DS with a visual impairment. He copes very well with day to day life, but in a way this makes it harder as people tend to assume he will be fine. Unsurprisingly, he found learning to read pretty hard, and particularly making the switch from "sounding out" to sight recognising.

In school, he has been seen as "not meeting expectations" and struggling to concentrate and they seemed to think he wasn't very bright, although his mum (and I - I'm a primary teacher BTW) disagreed. The only help he is given visually are his glasses/lenses and the occasional enlarging of texts. After many meetings etc and a better teacher this year, his school have now recognised that he is indeed bright. He has made a lot of progress this year but is still having to play "catch up". They still seem to feel his main issues are immaturity/concentration, but I can't help wondering what effect his eye problem must be having in making that harder for him. (His auditory memory is excellent.) His spelling is weak and his written output is poor as a result, and he has a number of dyslexia-like symptoms such as reversal of letters and numbers, but again this could just be the eye issue. We are starting to worry about KS2, since there will be more and more reading/writing and more board work too.

My friend doesn't know what to do next - he is under hospital care for his eyes and has a VI team from the LEA involved, BUT the person who normally does VI educational stuff has been absent for months. My friend suggested a private ed psych to the school (she found one with VI experience) but the school asked her to delay it. I (cynically!) suspect this is because they knew hadn't done enough - since then they have put in reward schemes (finally!) to help with concentration, which has had some effect. The problem is that the school keep saying "he is coping" and are unwilling to do much more to support him. Yes he copes, but we are worried this is a strain for him and these coping mechanisms may fail later on, especially if he doesn't get the basics in now.

So my question is - what should she do? Persuade the school to accept the private ed pysch, or get medical reports confirming his areas of weakness? I think she needs a report of some sort spelling out his needs (possibly tech like a magnifier and/or support), so who is the best person to ask? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Tue 30-Apr-13 17:17:04

my dd3 has a vi (amongst other things) and all of what you describe was dealt with by her QTVI when she was in mainstream. What you really need is the QTVI not be absent! Why is there no one covering? It would be them that would usually assess for equipment and help/advise on the education side. Are his issues down to lack of concentration or is it that he's not getting enough breaks to prevent eye strain/getting too tired, has he been assessed to find out what size print he needs, can he see the smart board clearly? Really your friend shouldn't be having to pay for this, how frustrating, I can't see it doing any harm to getting the ed psych in but depends on whether the school will take notice. If it were me I would be considering applying for a statement, this sort of assessment would have to be done as part of that process. The www.nbcs.org.uk/nbcs is worth a look and a phonecall if your friend hasn't already.

LightAFire Tue 30-Apr-13 18:44:33

hi ninja the school claim it is all concentration, but given his VI issue it would amaze me if he wasn't being affected by eye strain and fatigue - they totally disregard this though and keep saying he "seems to cope ok". It makes my blood boil, it really does!

I'm not sure where they are at on text size since it's been so long since the VI person saw him. He gets no official breaks at all. I know they were more concerned about the board in Y3 (as allegedly they "use it less" in Y2), but that's coming up fast and no-one is doing anything! We thought an ed psych report might get the school to shift a bit more as I think they are reluctant to take the cost of equipment/believe it's all purely his concentration...

Thanks very much indeed for the link - will pass it on to her, and also suggest a statement. We were led to believe though that he will be unlikely to get one, unfortunately!

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Tue 30-Apr-13 19:21:28

There's an awful lot of people on this board who have been told their child won't get a statement who have gone on to get one, it appears a pretty standard phrase. If your friend wants to try for a statement then ipsea has a standard letter she can use to apply. It's not just about the academic achievement, he needs to be safe in his environment too, how they make sure he is safe walking around school, playtimes, the lunch hall, not being left out socially, equipment etc.

after my experience with dd3 at her first school I was often left wondering what they expected a child with a VI to look like, after all according to them 'she doesn't look blind' hmm confused grin

eggandcress Tue 30-Apr-13 19:53:08

Hi LightAFire

I have put a post on your OP in Special Needs Chat

MareeyaDolores Tue 30-Apr-13 20:30:08

If a dc with HI or VI has a statutory assessment, this must include a report from a specialist teacher for HI/VI. So perhaps askingfor stat assessment (appealing if refused) would be one way to get this.

Tbh, if they're not planning a tribunal, private ed psych might be a lot of money for a report that gets filed and ignored. Asking VI teacher to see him might bring new info: and the LA haven't got one. So LA cant simply over-ride findings by cheaply saying what they know already

MareeyaDolores Tue 30-Apr-13 20:31:20

Dunno how you get a private VI teacher tho: call the next door county and ask for moonlighting staff maybe wink

LightAFire Tue 30-Apr-13 21:26:59

Ninja "she doesn't look blind"?!!!! The ignorance is astounding! Very interesting to hear re statements - I will most definitely pass that along.

eggandcress your post is brilliant and so helpful, thanks very very much - I will copy and email to my friend.

Mareeya I did wonder if an ed psych report might get ignored - been hearing lots of stories from frustrated parents where the school don't seem to even read them.

Thanks one and all and shall pass all that on!

supermum98 Tue 30-Apr-13 21:36:34

Hi haven't got time to read all posts here but will tell u what I know. My ds has visual impairment/visual processing issues/visual perceptual issues. As I understand it, not due to problems with visual acuity. I picked up need for enlarged print myself and got him referred to paediatric low vision clinic, who diagnosed and VI service recommended enlarged print. He can read normal sized print, but suffers from visual fatique, his mistake level goes up and comprehension goes down. Enlarged print alleviates this. As their reading level climbs then it is possible to gradually bring print size down. Visual fatigue will definately affect concentration. Children with dyslexia also can have poor concentration. My ds2 has been diagnosed with SPLD's worst being processing and he has poor concentration and suffers from fatigue. I think a full diagnostic EP assessment is what you need as the picture is multifactoral.
I have just paid £1000 for 2 x independent EP assessments and they were worth their weight in gold. School EP assessments, if you can get them, are much shorter and in my ds2's case, missed a high order processing deficit, because their tests were cherry picked. Yes some schools turn their nose up at independent EP assessments, but in my case I had peace of mind that everything had been covered and it made needs led rather than means led recommendations. I was fully consulted and sat in on the tests.
Visual optometry could be considered. Magnifiers are difficult to work with, so you can use RNIB and NCBS libraries to get enlarged print. Also look at load2learn web site. RNIB enlarged print is size 24. May be worth getting colourimetry.done to see if needs to wear coloured glasses for a while. May show problems with eye movements. Some normal opticians will do this now. We have just bought an IPAD and using it to down-load e-books as need bigger screen, when enlarging compared to kindle. Screen glare from whiteboards can be a problem, so wirelessly connecting laptop to whiteboard can help with this, then notes can be typed and enlarged. If a child with VI is learning to read then I think unless the book is visually optimized it will slow rate of progress. My ds needs a non-serif'd font and bold black on white, but some kids need different coloured backgrounds. My ds with VI, reading age climbed when we got the visual accessibility of his books right. NCBS do customize books.
Hope this helps and good luck. Oh and talk about blood boiling- the school just don't get his VI, have been told it is because he isn't completely blind. Most don't get the need for enlarged print. So prepare yourself to be angry. Oh and by the way it doesn't breech copyright to enlarge- they tried that one on me.

LightAFire Wed 01-May-13 13:27:55

Thanks very much supermum - will pass that on too.

And yes I agree the problem definitely seems to be people don't always understand due to him not being completely blind. Thanks for enlarging tip too!

MareeyaDolores Wed 01-May-13 13:51:14

His spelling is weak and his written output is poor as a result, and he has a number of dyslexia-like symptoms such as reversal of letters and numbers

Something like This might be worth considering? And even schools who are funny about laptops can often be persuaded to allow one of these

MareeyaDolores Wed 01-May-13 13:55:38

Not 'covering' the only VI specialist post in the county during prolonged absence could be argued to be direct discrimination against VI dc.

Would the LA be happy for a school to leave a class of non-disabled dc without a supply teacher for a similar time period?

RNIB have a fairly good education section on their website and are quite scathing about the recent cuts to VI education services

MareeyaDolores Wed 01-May-13 14:09:04

This lot have some quite good guides for various issues including sight impairments here

Social services (sensory impairment team ideally, children with disabilities if need be) might actually be useful here. If the hold a multi-agency meeting (CAF or TAC) then this will raise the profile of the VI in school, and perhaps kick the LA's a**e into getting a supply VI teacher to come and do a proper assessment/ advice session. Especially if the parents repeatedly and innocently ask for direct SS payments for carer hours to help with the unadapted homework /after-school activities etc wink.

LightAFire Wed 01-May-13 14:39:51

Thanks very much Mareeya! Good point re discrimination, shall mention that!

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 01-May-13 17:31:42

'We were led to believe though that he will be unlikely to get one, unfortunately!'

That's what all parents are led to believe, even those who have children that as a result received a funded place at a special school. It is a way of delaying funding and also ensuring that provision is reserved for those with parents who can stomach the fight.

However, even if you don't get a statement, the request focusses minds somewhat and professionals do tend to appear out of the woodwork where you never even knew they existed.

LightAFire Wed 01-May-13 17:50:58

Interestingly as a teacher I've also been told over and over again "they won't get a statement" - I think you're right and it must be done on purpose to put people off. How sad!

Very very useful to know though thank you Starlight - especially that just the request itself may cause some action. Right now the school are dragging their heels and saying it's just maturity and are trying to deflect my friend from involving an Ed Psych at all...I am really starting to wonder why they are so opposed! Especially since she would be paying herself...

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 01-May-13 17:56:53

The Ed pysch might make recommendations that would cost money to implement. In addition, as we have discussed before, teachers can be very defensive (for some good reasons).

The new funding arrangements mean that most of the SEN money is now given to schools (according to a complicated formula that will mean some more affluence schools will lose out), and they are expected to fund the majority of statements out of their own budget.

This money is not ringfenced, so if the school can find a way of NOT supporting the ONE child with complex needs, they can use the money to fund a vegetable patch for ALL children to benefit from plus put a picture in their brouchure to attract MC parents.

So school will support the LA in not issuing statements, and they will support the LA in making any issued statements as vague and unenforcable as possible.

This will be all the more likely if the school feel that the child in question is far from their 'worst' or 'in need' child.

LightAFire Wed 01-May-13 18:33:15

I think you are spot on starlight. I said to my friend I had a nasty suspicion it was for financial reasons. That and they are also being defensive, taking it as criticism, etc etc!! Oh and also not involving her.

I am stunned that SEND money is not to be ring fenced. I totally assumed it would have to be in order to avoid scenarios like the vegetable patch one you describe!

And yes you've got it in one, he is far from the worst/most in need - he gets on more or less, is quiet and not disruptive, and they've let him slide under the radar with the words "oh he is just not concentrating". I think what really got to me was they were offered free VI training but turned it down - presumably to avoid paying cover? - and so no-one appears to even grasp his issues at all...

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 01-May-13 19:19:34

Yes. Why should they spend a shed load of money on a child who in their opinion isn't all that far behind/disruptive/has pushy parents, when there are far more 'deserving'/disruptive/pita children that could do with that resource.

What they fail to recognise imo, is the very real sacrafices that that 'pusy' parent has made to get their child merely adequate provision and to understand that the other children should be supported AS WELL, rather than instead and that actually, as education specialists it is their JOB to ensure that happens.

LightAFire Wed 01-May-13 22:00:33

hear hear

Funbird Wed 01-May-13 22:16:41

Hi everyone. This is all really helpful. This question was about my son. I just had to sign up and benefit from your advice. I am totally thinking of going down the statement route. I have an IEP meeting on Friday which I am going to hijack with this topic.

eggandcress Thu 02-May-13 09:48:40

Welcome Funbird to the board.

I think definitely go down the statement route, I was wary at first but I am so glad I did it. It has meant we were able to cherry-pick my DDs secondary school. We chose one with lots of experience with VI pupils. They were desperate to have her as they did not want to loose their expertise. So good all-round.

There is lots of info on this board about getting a statement and also on the internet. I found a VI website that was really helpful with the wording for my parental input. I will see if I can find it and post a link.

Good luck for tomorrow. I hope the school come on side as this makes for a much easier ride in obtaining statement.

Funbird Thu 02-May-13 22:43:04

Hi eggandcress. Thank you for your message. I am just stunned by the lack of support. I stupidly trusted that all was being done. I now realise that they are coasting and not putting in any effort. Finally tracked down the VI teacher who supports my ds she said it is really hard to get a statement. But my boy is top of her priorities. (Hhhmmmm) Now going to track down SENCO who I haven't heard from in a year. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 02-May-13 22:50:31

It's not just hard to get a statement, often it is pointless unless the provision within it is specified and quantified and actually addresses the needs of your child.

It isn't an easy journey but nor is it that complicated.

You can (and I would advise you do) apply for a statement yourself. It may focus minds at your meeting tomorrow if you download the IPSEA model letter and take it to your meeting declaring that you will be puting it in the post box on the way home unless they can convince you that you don't need to.

And tbh, I would then still do it anyway.

LightAFire Fri 03-May-13 11:46:46

From previous conversations with Starlight she definitely knows what she is talking about. I agree apply anyway - from what I've (now) been told the statement may be argued about or ignored angry but I think it at least gives a better chance of them taking his needs more seriously. Otherwise I'm afraid they will just keep fobbing you off year after year.

And funbird I also feel really bad that I never knew the "impossible to get a statement" was just a way to put people off - I wish I'd been able to give you better advice before now! Very glad I joined MN, have learned a hell of a lot already.

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