How does Usher Syndrome Affect Education?
If teachers, parents, and students are proactive, education can prepare the student with Usher syndrome for employment and independent living. As with all children, many factors come into play when determining the best educational placement. Programs should meet all the needs the individual may have in the future, and provide vocational and mobility training, as well as academics.
In general, a teacher should always be aware of the student's visual field, even though the student's ability to see may vary from day to day. Consultation with an itinerant teacher of children who are visually impaired is invaluable. Overall, always take into account the student's future dual-sensory impairment when identifying skills to teach.
Specific adaptations are helpful for many persons with Usher syndrome. The following are some suggestions for teachers who have a child with visual impairments in their classrooms:
- Lighting should be adequate and non-glare.
- Teachers should provide group instruction from a non-cluttered background area and avoid unnecessary movement.
- The teacher should never be in front of the windows or other major light source.
- The classroom whiteboard should be clean and printing in a high contrast color marker should be used. (Avoid using light colors such as yellow on a whiteboard.) If a chalkboard is still present, the chalkboard should be clean and a high contrast color chalk should be used (yellow or white).
- Background colors should be neutral but with texture. Floors and carpets should not be dark red or brown.
- Furniture should be arranged to provide easy movement and open space. Keep drawers and doors closed. Discuss furniture re-arrangements with the student. Seat the students where they are comfortable - possibly to the front and side where they can see the chalkboard and the other students in the class.
- Print should be maximum contrast. Avoid dittos, but if they must be used give the student a yellow acetate overlay to use. Twelve to 18 point type on non-glare paper is recommended.
- Students may need individual copies of wall graphs or charts or they may need time to examine these charts up close.
- Tests may have to be adapted for individual use, including allowing students to mark answers on test booklets or providing the test in a different format.
- Others may have to adapt their sign language to adjust to the student's limited vision. Keep signs as small and concise as possible, and increase duration of each sign. Eventually tactile signs may be a receptive option.
- Begin including more and more tactile and olfactory materials and cues for the student. A vision teacher or orientation and mobility specialist may recommend techniques to use during specific activities.
- When lighting is inadequate, a sighted guide can help the student move in unfamiliar areas.
- For all tasks, students may need time to complete the same work as their peers. When doing repetitive academic work, students can be assigned half the questions or problems their peers are assigned to equalize the length of time spent in homework or academic drill.