Surviving school as a visually impaired person

Hello everyone and welcome back to My Blurred World.

I hope you’re all doing well.

It’s been over a week since I last posted so I apologise for that but the reason being is because I’ve been lacking in inspiration when it comes to writing posts and I’ve been lacking in ideas so if you have any suggestions then please feel free to let me know.

Today’s post is all about surviving school as a visually impaired person (VIP).

Surviving school is hard no matter who you are but going through school as a visually impaired/disabled person is even harder.Today I want to share my experience at mainstream school with you all and talk you through how I survived in education despite being visually impaired.

This post might be quite a long one so feel free to grab a drink and a snack before we begin 🙂

If you read my ‘End of an era’ post last month then you will know that I finished my A Level exams in June and I am now moving on to the world of work later on this year. I thought that given the fact that I have now finished my time in education it would be the perfect opportunity to share my experience with you all by also talking you through my thoughts on my journey in education.

I attended mainstream school since the first day I started my journey in education, although it was difficult to cope with people’s opinions of my visual impairment at times I managed to make the most of my time at school by making sure I worked hard to achieve the grades I desired.

I would like to highlight the challenges I faced during my time in education in this post in the hope that I can help others who might be in a similar situation but I also want to concentrate on the positives because my experience in mainstream education was not all bad.

I’m going to focus on my time in secondary school in this post as my time at primary school was nothing special to write about. But I might talk about it in future posts if you’d like to hear about it.

I’d say that one of the main challenges I faced at school was making friends. I often felt intimidated by people because of their lack of understanding of disabilities (visual impairment in my case). People often found it amusing to talk down to me and make me feel worthless therefore this really knocked my confidence making it even harder for me to go up to new people and make new friends. I’ve always been quite a shy person but this is because I was worried by people’s opinions and I was afraid of what people might say when I went up to talk to them so I never did, I expected people to come up to talk to me which as I reflect on the situation was not the best of ideas. I finally made a group of friends that I really enjoyed spending time with but they then started acting odd and some of them started to bully me by purposely pushing me in the corridor and leaving me alone when somewhere was dark and not waiting for me when we went to lunch. They also took my chair before I went into a classroom so I had nowhere to sit and they also ignored me at lunch, I went to sit on my own because I couldn’t see where they were sitting in the canteen and they went mad at me because I didn’t sit with them but the reality was that I couldn’t see them and they knew that but they wanted to make things difficult for me. I don’t want to make this post all about friendships and bullying because that’s not why I’m writing this but I just wanted to share a little of my experience when it came to friendships in mainstream education. If you’d like me to write a separate post about this then feel free to let me know as I would be happy to do so.

One of the main things that helped me ‘survive’ school was the support I received. I had a TA (Teaching assistant) who would be with me at all times, who would make sure that all the work would be provided for me in the correct format whether it be large print or braille and she also came with me to lessons incase the teacher would write things on the white board which would often happen. I also had a QTVI (Qualified teacher of the visually impaired) who would typically visit once a week to make sure everything was running smoothly and that everything was going ok. I didn’t always see eye to eye with my TA and QTVI but we grew closer when I moved on to sixth form as my confidence grew and I was able to communicate with them a lot better which made my relationship with them a lot stronger. They always made sure that everything was in place and I can’t thank them enough for all the support they gave me, I am truly thankful to them for everything they supported me with and I know that my experience in education would have been extremely difficult without them there.

I believe that the support we receive or should receive as visually impaired/disabled people is vital and I really hope this service continues in the future because disabled students really deserve to have all the support that is available to make their experience in education more enjoyable.

My TA worked extremely hard to make sure that all materials were adapted for me in the right format but some teachers didn’t always remember to give her the work before hand and thought that it could be done in a matter of minutes when in reality it could take hours or even days to adapt. This was a struggle that I faced far too often and it wasn’t at all pleasant, this happened even in sixth form which I found to be quite shocking because I would have thought that the teachers would have learnt that all materials should be handed in a respectable amount of time before hand and they knew this because one of my teachers had been teaching me in year 7 and in my GCSE’s. Adapting work is not a simple process and it often put a lot of stress on my TA as she had to rush to make sure I had work to do in the class otherwise I’d fall behind with the work which was not at all fair. I would often find myself in a situation where I would just have to sit in the class waiting for my work to be adapted whilst my fellow pupils would carry on. I am not blaming the teachers in any way, I just think that people should gain a better understanding of these types of matters. But overall my teachers were very helpful, they were very sweet and although some of them didn’t understand my situation at all there were others that I really enjoyed talking to especially at sixth form as my confidence grew, they would always make sure that I  was ok and would help me if my TA wasn’t there for any reason. Yes ok the work might not have been ready for me at all times but I did really like my teachers and although they might not have a full understanding of how severe my vision was/is they did try their best to help.support me and I can’t thank them enough for that.

I suffered a major deterioration in my vision when I was in year 11 which resulted in me completing all my GCSE exams through the medium of braille, I had previously learned braille in two languages but had never completed my exams in braille before. I took french as a GCSE subject which meant that I had to then start learning that language in braille which was very difficult as in a way it meant that I had to learn two new languages which proved to be very difficult at times. Although the deterioration in my vision was hard for me to cope with at times I did try to maintain a positive attitude and I think that this is what helped me survive and get through  year 11. I was very happy with the GCSE grades that I achieved which ranged from A’s to B’s.

Sixth form was a completely different story, I’d say that those two years were the hardest and worst years of my life. Year 12 was extremely hard for me, I was drifting away from my friends, I wasn’t really close with my TA at the beginning of that year either and it was a year which I suffered many setbacks in my personal life. My anxiety levels went through the roof and I suffered a number of panic attacks. I was also ill often due to chronic fatigue syndrome and I often had to stay at home because i had absolutely no energy and some of the teachers were angry with me because I missed so many lessons but the reality was that I couldn’t attend them because I was so ill. I was also ill during my exams and this reflected on my grades that year but when it came to September 2015 I decided to take a whole different approach as I started in year 13. Although it wasn’t the best year and I wasn’t completely happy, it was far better than year 12 had been. I was still ill often but I managed to learn strategies and ways to deal and cope with my chronic fatigue, this didn’t cure it but I was determined that I was going to achieve good grades in my A levels and therefore tried my very best to attend school even on the days I wasn’t feeling 100%. Don’t get me wrong this wasn’t easy and I often found myself in a situation where I had to go home half way through the day because I couldn’t cope but I survived all this and my exams came to an end in June.

The positivity that I tried to maintain during year 13 really helped me and there were people in my life who tried their best to make sure that I was ok and that I could get through it no matter what, the motivation that I received from my family and my best friend was very precious to me and I do believe that it is one of the reasons how I did get through my last year so well.

I haven’t received my A level results yet but whatever those results might be I am happy with the way my exams went, I did suffer another deterioration in my vision as my last exams approached which was hard to ignore but I tried my best to concentrate on my exams despite of this and as I said I’m happy with the way they went but grades aren’t everything so whatever grades I receive I will be happy with the way I approached my last year and that’s all that matters.

I didn’t write this post just to inform you of my experience, I wanted to write it to raise awareness of some of the struggles visually impaired people might come across in education. I also want people who might be in a similar situation know that they are not alone. No matter what you’re going through I just want you to know that there might be someone out there who is going through something similar to you and who can relate to how you’re feeling. You will never be alone even if you feel like you are sometimes, there is always someone out there you can talk to, remember that.

I just want to say that if you live with a disability or if you’re just going through a hard time in your life, it doesn’t define you. You can achieve anything you want to achieve no matter who you are or what you’re going through. Some say that grades are important and to some extent yes that is true but they are not everything and no one should put too much pressure on themselves. Just do what makes you happy and don’t let anything you might be living with stop you from getting to where you want to be. School is hard, I know that but it’s how you cope with it that’s important, you can conquer anything this life throws at you and I’m telling you now that you’ll do amazing in whatever you do, remember that.

I hope this post helped you gain an insight into how I survived/got through school as a visually impaired person. Be sure to share some of your personal experiences with me if you wish to do so as I always love hearing from you.

I’m sorry that this has been an extremely long post but if you read it al then thank you. And thank you all for your constant support, it means the world to me.

i hope you enjoy the rest of your day, be sure to join me next time in My Blurred World. xox

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