Education and Low Vision
A series of articles by Sky Dunfield

My Grade School Years

Looking back, starting school brought a lot of new challenges that took time for me and my family to adjust to. Entering grade school was when my lack of vision first effected specific tasks and work so that I physically wasn't able to participate in the same way others could. This came into play during grade one while being taught to read and write. The first challenge I came across was copying letters and numbers from the front board. This was extremely difficult for me because as those with low vision know, seeing the front board, even when you are seated at the front of the class, isn't possible. My solution to this was certainly not the best option. I would walk up to the front, look at what was written, and then walk back to my seat to copy it. Back and forth, over and over. I remember the other kids would get annoyed at me for standing in front of the board while they were trying to copy. I soon realized this was not a reasonable strategy. Up until forth grade, I would always have to find ways of adapting when it came to seeing lessons taught up front. Usually, I would have to wait until the teacher had finished the lesson, then go up and ask for them to re-explain while I would stand close enough to see what they were doing. This wasn't ideal for the teacher or myself. Luckily for me, most teachers were very patient. However, others were not. 
 I remember my third grade teacher got so frustrated when I couldn't complete my cursive assignments that she took my desk and pushed it to the front of the room against the wall. I was devastated and extremely embarrassed, and then the fact remained that I was still unable to see the writing high on the board above me. Like many low vision students, I was shy and didn't know how to stick up for myself. Of course I now realize the importance of advocacy, but back then I never told my parents about how I was struggling, so they didn't know I needed help. It's vital to talk to a child's teacher and help them to understand how to properly treat a student with low vision. 
When I started fourth grade, companies were just beginning to create low vision aids that could  help students like me. I was given a gigantic camera-like devise that took up an entire desk. It was a camera and screen in one, and I could point it at the board and see the front of the class through the attached screen. This camera literally changed my world in terms of education. I was able to keep up in my classes and follow lessons as they were happening. Needless to say, with the help of my camera school become much more enjoyable. I didn't realized it back then, but a lack of adaptations in the classroom is a huge contributing factor to the success of a student. I know personally that when I was young, I would try to change how I learned, which separated me from the rest of the class. Honestly, this was holding me back. It was only when I got the adaptations I needed to follow along in normal lessons that I started to thrive. Other  adaptations I found useful were magnifiers and large print textbooks. I preferred to read with an actual book rather than use a CCTV, because I found I could read faster. However, even with a magnifier I would have to lean forward and be about an inch away from my textbook, which hurts any student's back. Good posture is a positive of a CCTV. I had to learn to balance pros and cons like this in order to figure out what worked best for me. 
Starting school was the time when low vision really started to affect my life, and it was where I began to learn how to adapt and get the help I needed. I would suggest making sure to talk with teachers, principles, and low vision specialists to find out how you can participate in school and do the best you can without anything holding you back. 

Follow along as Sky's journey takes us through her middle years.
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