Who are the Gateshead Visual Impairment Team?

We are a team of specialist staff who have additional training and expertise in visual impairment.

The Team consists of specialist teachers who hold the mandatory qualification for teaching children and young people with a visual impairment, and specialist support assistants who have experience and have gained qualifications in a number of areas such as, Braille, Mobility and Independent Living Skills, Early Years, curriculum modification, Braille and large print transcription etc.  Additionally the team comprises of a Habilitation Officer as well as a Specialist Learning Mentor.

How can your setting access the services of the Visual Impairment Team?

Most referrals on behalf of visually impaired children and young people are made following diagnosis at hospital.  Schools, other settings (e.g. a private day nursery or children’s centre) and other professionals can also refer children and young people to the team using the designated referral forms with parental permission. The team works with visually impaired children and young people from birth up to 25 years of age.

Most referrals on behalf of visually impaired children and young people are made following diagnosis at hospital.  Schools, other settings (e.g. a private day nursery or children’s centre) and other professionals can also refer children and young people to the team using the designated referral forms with parental permission. The team works with visually impaired children and young people from birth up to 25 years of age.

What happens once a referral has been made?

Following a referral to the VI Team, contact is made with parents, the school / setting and background information is sought.  Where necessary we contact the relevant hospital and request up to date information.  The VI Team liaises closely with relevant members of the Ophthalmology Department, sharing results of assessments, liaising re clinics and sharing information for the benefit of the child or young person.

Our aim is to provide appropriate intervention quickly. The input received varies as it is designed to ensure that we meet the individual and specific needs of each child and young person.  In some cases, children and young people in schools or settings may be allocated extra support or additional resources to help them access the curriculum.

Within Gateshead we adhere to national ‘Eligibility Criteria’ to identify appropriate levels of intervention.  We aim to complete (as a minimum) annual assessments of functional vision.

This assessment of functional vision aims to determine

  • what pupils see
  • how they can see and use their vision
  • under what conditions they can see

The purpose is to provide information about the use of vision, to plan intervention, to enhance visual skills and advise on appropriate methods of access to the curriculum.

What kind of intervention will the child or young person with visual impairment receive?

Where possible we work with children and young people without the need for a statutory assessment.  We aim to give advice and guidance to schools, settings and their staff in order to increase access to the curriculum for children and young people with a visual impairment. The input received varies as it is designed to ensure that we meet the individual and specific needs of each child.

The expanded or “hidden” curriculum includes areas of instruction specific to pupils with a visual impairment and is taught by specialist teachers and staff from the Gateshead VI Team.

The expanded curriculum is a set of skill areas developed to augment the traditional curriculum and includes:-

  1. Compensatory or functional academic skills, including communication modes – skills that a student with a visual impairment must acquire to access the regular curriculum. These skills include learning Braille, study and organisational skills, spatial understanding and any adaptation on the existing curriculum.
  2. Orientation and mobility – skills involved in independent travel and the concepts that underlie spatial reasoning and navigation
  3. Social interaction skills – acquisition of the subtle modes of interaction that people develop by watching, imitating and reacting to each other.
  4. Independent living skills – can include cooking, personal hygiene, money management, time monitoring and organisation. These are often skill areas that pupils with visual impairment do not develop because they do not observe them in others and are often not taught explicitly.
  5. Recreation and leisure skills – without direct instruction, it is not likely that a child with a VI will be exposed to the range of activities possible that can be used to fill leisure time.
  6. Career education – pupils with visual impairment are often not exposed to a large variety of career opportunities because of the perception that the range of options is limited due to their visual impairment.
  7. Use of assistive technology – technology is a great tool for providing access to information for pupils with visual impairment at the same time as sighted peers. Access to teaching in touch typing and keyboard familiarity from an early age ensures that pupils with VI have the skills they need to access both mainstream and specialist IT.
  8. Visual efficiency skills – the amount and type of visual impairment varies greatly amongst individuals however it is important to ensure that all pupils are using the vision they have effectively.

The Gateshead VI Team work with other service providers to ensure children and young people have access to mobility training, leisure opportunities, independent living skills training and increase opportunities to develop their social skills outside school.

Gateshead has a Habilitation Officer who provides mobility and independent living skills training to children and young people within authority.

Close links are maintained between parents, the child’s school or setting and the Visual Impairment Team.

What kind of intervention could the school or setting receive?
We can help to support schools through a number of ways, including;

  • Explaining the nature of the child / young person’s (YP) visual impairment and the implications for his or her education
  • Researching and providing access to specialist information on eye conditions and the functional implications
  • Providing a range of informal and formal training to share proven best practice
  • Providing specialist advice on accessibility and health and safety issues
  • Providing advice as part of the special educational needs process
  • Supporting teaching sessions for Braillists either in class or in a one to one situation
  • Researching and applying for funding of specialist equipment as appropriate
  • Completing environmental advice to ensure the safety and well-being of pupils and promote independence.

How do the VI Team support the Family?

Having a good relationship with the family really helps us to support the child / YP. A successful partnership is the most effective way we can share information and expertise.

We can help through a number of ways in including:

  • Home teaching for pre-school children (early intervention)
  • Providing explanations of the eye condition and the implications of this on home and school life
  • Involving and supporting the family throughout the vision assessment and registration process
  • Helping the family to contact and access other supportive agencies
  • Supporting the child / YP and their family at ophthalmic appointments or the low vision aid clinic
  • Supporting the child / YP and their family at multi-disciplinary meetings
  • Assisting with access to specialist equipment as or when appropriate
  • Providing access to Braille teaching if necessary.
  • Encouraging the child / YP’s participation in a range of leisure and out of school activities.

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Contacts

Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross

LINT Manager, QTVI, QToD

0191 4773186
amandaross@gateshead.gov.uk

 

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