Do you think it matters? Does it matter that a person with autism, developmental delays, and vision impairment cannot read Braille?
Autistic students are often visual learners. So, what happens with an autistic individual who has a vision impairment? Simple. It complicates learning. That does not mean it cannot be done. It just means it takes creativity and patience. Early on, Jess was on a path to learn Braille. She worked on pre-Braille activities for several years, and made good progress. So, what changed?
In an earlier post, I discussed my thoughts on the importance of initial evaluations. There is a potential disadvantage to the student if successive evaluations are tainted by opinions and perceptions of former (and potentially novice) evaluators. Well, I supposed the reverse is true as well.
Recently, I spent time reading weekly progress notes and IEP meeting notes. I was quite pleasantly reminded of one of Jessica’s early, open-minded, positive-thinking, vision teachers. One note specifically said how quickly Jess was moving through the pre-Braille instruction. One of the things that struck me was the stark contrast between the updates by this teacher, stating all of the things they were working on together, the progress she was making, and describing her ABILITIES; compared to the next vision teacher, and the comments that seemed to predominantly describe her INABILITY to make progress, and what all she could not do.
That is THE difference. Attitude. One person: open-mindedly worked with Jess and viewed progress as progress. Another person: discounted Jessica’s abilities because she learned differently, and her progress was not standard. One person had optimism; one did not.
IEP meetings start with reviewing Present Level of Performance. After having worked only on pre-Braille skills, when Jess was 6 years old she could identify the beginning and end of a Braille row, track one row of Braille using both hands, and discriminate Braille shapes. She was familiar with the Braille writer and knew its name and function.
A year later, after having been working with a different teacher for approximately 5 months, on her Present Level of Performance there was no mention of Braille. Period. Then, another year later, the recommendation said:
X – Instructions in Braille is not indicated for this student.
In a follow-up meeting months later, the committee reconvened and it was agreed that we would not give up on Braille instruction. However, with a teacher that did not believe Jess could learn, it really did not change much. Eventually, Braille instruction was written back out of her IEP altogether. I was not able to get it added back in until 2005, when Jessica was 18 years old.
My first question was, “Do you think it matters? Does it matter that a person with autism, developmental delays, and vision impairment cannot read Braille?” What if the question was; does it matter that a person with autism and developmental delays cannot read? Does that change the answer? In both instances, the person has the right, and potential ability to learn to read. In both instances, the person deserves a real chance.
And why am I still stuck on this topic after all of these years? Because, Jessica wants to know how to read.
If you are new to Autism After School – The Transitional Truth, Jess is an autistic and visually impaired young adult. I am telling our story to help other parents and professionals learn from our journey. My hope is to help others better prepare for experiences within the educational system and the transition to adulthood.