Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Working with Classroom Teachers to Serve Students with Visual Impairments

worksheet example with lines and dots
Walking in to classrooms and trying to get teachers to modify assignments can be a tricky road, which includes a lot of negotiating and adapting. It's the beginning of the school year and you need to build a relationship that will be productive for the student.
A kindergarten student of mine with low vision has been getting worksheets like the one below. The teacher complained that the student is not doing her work and she doesn't "have the time to work one-on-one with her."
worksheet with lines and dotsworksheet with lines and dots
I recommended dividing the page up into 3 separate pages after being told it's a pre-writing page and the student HAS to do them. This was an immediate "no" as she doesn't have time to make all these copies.
I then asked to work with the student on the page and see what else I could try. I bolded the dots...that helped, but the page was still just too busy. So we used two sheets of paper. If we covered the two sections not being worked on, the student could then do the activity.
worksheet broken in to 1 partworksheet broken into one part

The Negotiation

When I met with the teacher, I offered her this solution: I will adapt the writing pages with the bolded dot and the student will use the white paper to block off the areas she's not working on. The student demonstrated she could do this. I just need the teacher to provide her the "cover paper".  She took a minute and then agreed.
So, I pushed forward and offered to meet with her once a week to look at her lesson planning, worksheets, materials, etc. to see what might need to be adapted. I used the "it'll save you both frustration" comment by stressing if we do it before, life will be more productive for you both. She agreed and even smiled at me!
Working with classroom teachers can be challenging. If they're used to doing it their way, it's difficult to get them to change...even the smallest of changes. Offering them alternatives and then "helping them see the light" is more helpful than telling them what they need to do. That approach will get the door shut in your face fast!
Just remember Rome wasn't built in a day. Patience will save the day. Move slowly and pay attention to their words and body language. It can be overwhelming having a student with a visual impairment in the classroom along with all the other demands made on the teachers. 
negotiating and adapting collage







This is by far the most

Posted by Maureen Lewicki

I agree, and I don't

Posted by Sarah Fields

What an important post, Liz.

Posted by Laurie Hudson

Can you offer your session

Posted by R. Denise Robinson

"When the question is not the

Posted by Laurie Hudson

Consulting issues

Posted by Linda Hagood

Posted on September 30, 2015
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Working with Classroom Teachers to Serve Students with Visual Impairments

Liz Eagan commented on February 6, 2016

Linda, I know where you are coming from. In the beginning of my VI career I was an 'itinerant Nazi'. You WOULD do it my way and you WILL meet with me. I've mellowed with experience and age. Now, I try to meet them for lunch so we can eat and talk. Food gives opportunities to shove something in your mouth to think of a better response! I've also found if I support their assignments/projects, they will be more acceptable to the change I am requesting. This activity at first blush seemed meaningless for me as well, but after talking to an OT, I learned this is a prewriting activity designed to help learn how to make the letters. That is why I like the collaboration model the best. I see more than two sides (the teacher's and mine) this way. And, Linda, you ARE AMAZING and I have learned so much from you. Keep doing those amazing things!!

Linda Hagood commented on February 6, 2016


I really grapple with this issue --consulting is essential, yet it is something we are never trained to do. It's especially hard for me when I'm in an itinerant role working in multiple schools or multiple districts and don't really feel like I'm part of the culture of a school. Your example struck a chord--I was immediately struck with the question "Why is this particular worksheet/ skill so important for my student?"  I am interested that you accept what the teacher is teaching (much more than I often do), and JUST ADAPT it, without asking questions.  I have a hard time with this, because our kids don't have time to waste on assignments that might be meaningless for them, or that may not transfer to reading, writing or communicating.  Yet, I see the value in validating the teacher's work,the curriculum she is using,  and the assignments she is giving to  the rest of the class.  I tend to want to reinvent the wheel, and know this alienates teachers sometimes.

I also have difficulty with this meeting time issue, though I know it's important.  Teachers don't want to give up their planning time for "just one student" (yes, I know it helps all the kids in the class), and I sometimes don't allow enough time for this myself.  I can tell you're a great consultant, Liz--and this post really helped me think about it a little more positively.

Laurie Hudson commented on October 14, 2015

"When the question is not the question"

As TVI/COMS consultants, I think that it’s so important that we listen for times when “the question is not the question.” Deeper concerns of teachers/IEP teams may be that they see us asking for more control or vulnerability than they can comfortably risk at first.  The book "Flawless Consulting," by Peter Block, is a terrific resource on this, and I use his work a lot in the training that I do on this topic.  

I appreciate your suggesting further vehicles for this training, but I think it may be too complex to summarize on Paths and too interactive to develop as a Webinar.  If you want to talk with me further about it, though, send an email to our Paths guide ( and she will forward it along to me."

R. Denise Robinson commented on October 13, 2015

Can you offer your session via webinar? Those of us in the most southern part of Alabama would greatly appreciate being able to take advantage of an opportunity like that!

Liz Eagan commented on October 3, 2015

Laurie,  would you be agreeable to post information from your session on Paths? What you have to share can help many of us in the field.

Laurie Hudson commented on October 2, 2015

What an important post, Liz.  As consultants, we need to be strong in three areas: our technical skills, our general people skills, and our awareness of strategies of effective consulting.  It's this last area where we rarely receive training or even have discussion.  And yet, as I've been reading recently, people we consult to want us to affirm that they're perfect, but at the same time to fix their problems.  There's no way we can do both!  I think you're spot on with slowly building a relationship with this teacher and frequently checking to be sure that she's buying in, every step of the way.

(For those of you who live in New England, I'll be running a full morning pre-conference session on consulting as a TVI/COMS at NEAER in Falmouth, MA in early November.  I wish all our Paths readers could join us!)

Sarah Fields commented on October 1, 2015

I agree, and I don't understand how a classroom teacher can flat out refuse, oh but they do! This is definitely an area in need of support articles and education. Thanks for posting

Liz Eagan commented on October 1, 2015

RE: This is by far the most

I whole heartedly agree, Maureen! I must say the beginning of the year is my busiest as I am spending countless hours (yes hours) trying to help the teachers see that the students we share can do and can succeed in their room. I try to build on their strengths, send supportive emails that focus on something they did in their room that was good, observing in their rooms, doing collaborative lessons so that they can see me modeling how to do some lessons that they struggle with the concept of, and so much more.  I try to ensure that I add service time for consults or collaborative time to the classroom. If I do the collaborative wording (which I do most of the time!) I define it to the committee as it includes observations, material adaptations, meeting with educational team...including the parent, and whatever needs arise that I can assist with. I try to remain positive...even when frustrated beyond belief!

Maureen Lewicki commented on October 1, 2015

This is by far the most difficult part of our jobs as TVIs. As our students progress through the academic years, it gets harder to convince teachers that the child belongs in their class, based on ABILITY, not on sight or lack of it. Lots of diplomacy is needed, yet we have to be able to convince teachers this can work for everyone's benefit in the class. Pointing out to the teacher that they are not verbalizing their visuals (instead, using words such as this, that, there, here,) is awkward, but most teachers realize that they need to alter their presentation. When they have been told, and will not change: things can get very awkward indeed.