A woman's worried expression is reflected in the glass of an iPad she is holding.

Virtual Learning With a Visual Impairment

Virtual learning requires the majority of us parents to engage in a new, innovative way. Suddenly we are designing makeshift classrooms in random parts of our homes, to making almost every moment during the day a teachable one, and everything in between.

A few more titles were added to my resume this year

Since March 2020, I have added a few more titles to my resume: teacher, lunch lady, and guidance counselor, just to name a few. Long story short, the mommy shuffle has officially turned into a whole freestyle experience. For the most part, I have been going with the flow and taking each moment as it comes. Fast forward and here I am six months later and my son has officially begun kindergarten. Full transparency: it was already an emotional experience leading up to this day pre-COVID. Like many preschool parents, I’m already in the beginning stages of trying to wrap my head around the fact that my little guy would soon be officially full-time in school. That is a whole experience in and of itself – couple that with COVID and you have a whole cocktail of emotions.

Maneuvering virtual learning with Stargardt disease

In preparation for the school year, it was important for me to create a space in our home for my son to do virtual school. I anticipated the emotions that I was going to experience having to work remotely and do virtual school. However, what I did not anticipate was how virtual school would impact my vision, and by extension my emotional and physical health. Several of my friends have expressed their frustrations with logging into an online school, internet issues, and overall technological issues. In my opinion, it hits a little different having those issues coupled with living with Stargardt's. I literally had to pull out the whole arsenal of assistive devices to maneuver virtual learning.

My first parent-teacher Zoom conference experience

The emotional roller coaster started early for me. My son’s father and I were doing our parent-teacher conference, via Zoom, prior to my son’s first day of school. During that time, the teacher was walking us through logging into google classroom on the iPad. First of all, I am team Android so this was a learning curve already. It took me a while to figure out how to zoom in on the iPad, and once I did, I realized that it compromised the format and that was not conducive for me. As a result, I had to grab my Freedom Topaz. This ended up being super helpful because I was able to enlarge the entire screen without changing the format.

Mustering up the courage to ask for help

The challenges didn’t end there, however. Once I finally was able to get into the classroom, I struggled with logging in. I immediately thought that the reason why I was struggling to log in was because of my visual impairment. I typed in the username and password several times and it did not work. I admittedly felt a little defeated, but I mustered up the courage to ask my son’s father for help. He tried to login as well and was unsuccessful (to be honest, this was a relief). We eventually learned that it was not user error; instead, the device needed to be updated. They swapped the device out and gave us a new one. At that point, we were able to log in. First crisis averted.

Sloppy progress is still progress

The first week of virtual learning began and for the most part, things went really smoothly, mostly because my son is an expert when it comes to using technology. There were minor hiccups along the, but honestly, that was to be expected as this was new for everyone. With the first week of virtual learning completed, I can say that overall I feel great. I think what helped me was I remembered to give myself and my son grace. I prayed each morning and I remembered that at the end of the day, sloppy progress is still progress... at least that’s the way eye see it.

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