Mohamad is 12 years old and in Year 6 at a small rural primary school. He was diagnosed at birth with ocular albinism (reduced pigmentation of the iris). During early intervention with Vision Australia, Mohamad was also diagnosed with nystagmus (repetitive, uncontrolled movement of the eye) and photophobia (eye discomfort/pain due to light exposure). Mohamad is a popular student at his school and is well-liked by peers across many grades. He has not experienced any bullying during his primary schooling but is worried about going to high school and being singled out because of his disability.
Mohamad enjoys music and is a talented vocalist, regularly performing as a soloist for the school. His oral communication skills are exceptional for his age. He actively participates in class discussions and is the captain of the school debating team. The school has arranged a debate between Mohamad’s Year 6 debate team and the Year 7 debate team at the regional high school Mohamad will attend. The debate will be held at the high school, which will allow Mohamad the opportunity to navigate the new school grounds as well as provide a chance for him demonstrate his ability as a skilled debater. The high school is one hour away and has many primary schools that feed into it. Students from other feeder schools have also been invited to attend this event.
Additionally, the Year 6 teachers are co-planning an end-of-year concert with the other local rural primary schools. The event will be held at the high school and is an annual tradition that is much anticipated by students and families. Students audition for their parts, and Mohamad has been given a lead role. To accommodate his disabilities, Mohamad’s role, costume and the lighting scheme for the concert have been adapted accordingly, and Mohamad will wear sunglasses on stage to reduce his discomfort. The concert will allow Mohamad and his peers to meet the students who will study with them at the high school in future years, and, as a talented performer, will again highlight Mohamad’s strengths to his peers.
During his primary education, Mohamad and his parents attended all individual planning meetings, where Mohamad openly outlined what adjustments he required. These meetings were chaired by the Principal, and attended by the classroom teacher from the relevant grade, and a visiting teacher specialising in vision impairment. Throughout his primary education, via collaboration at these meetings and from recommendations made by Mohamad’s specialists, a range of adjustments were identified to help Mohamad. Given Mohamad was at a relatively small school, the Principal had to, at times, apply for capital works funding to pay for these adjustments to be put in place. At school Mohamad needs to sit in a darkened space so each year either window tinting or blinds were installed in his classroom. The school had also installed blinds in the corridor, library, art room and music room when Mohamad first enrolled. A closed-circuit television (CCTV) video magnifier system was provided to Mohamad by Vision Australia. Vision Australia also supplied him with a computer that was individualised for his needs. The primary school team told Mohamad and his parents that the computer and CCTV would go with Mohamad to his new high school.
During his individual planning meeting at the end of Term 3 in Year 5, the team, including Mohamad and his parents, documented all of the adjustments made for Mohamad into an ‘adjustments sheet’ so that Mohamad could provide it to staff at his high school enrolment meeting. Mohamad had his enrolment meeting at the high school at the end of Year 5, and the high school Principal advised they had already made some adjustments to their facilities over the years, as they had previously had students with vision impairment. The high school Principal indicated they would conduct a review when Mohamad started at high school to make sure all of his access needs could be met. The Principal also made a commitment at the enrolment meeting that Year 7 students would remain in one room for core subjects (Mathematics, English, and Humanities and Social Sciences) to reduce movement around the school and to minimise the number of classrooms where blinds would need to be installed. They further committed that all specialist classrooms (science labs, arts spaces, technology spaces, library, etc.) would have blinds installed.
Mohamad’s specialists have also provided input into Mohamad’s health care plan, which is reviewed with Mohamad and his family every 6 months based on his specialist reports (or more frequently if there is a change in his vision). Mohamad’s nystagmus means that he has a ‘best point of vision’, so sometimes he needs to turn his head to the left to be able to get the best view of something. This has impacted where he sits each year in the classroom. It has also impacted the font size used on worksheets, and the colour contrasts used on his computer. Mohamad also identified that he preferred any class materials to be printed on pale blue coloured paper to reduce glare. At times, Mohamad still experiences eye fatigue, so this was mentioned on his ‘adjustment sheet’ so that his high school can make sure his needs are still met.
During his enrolment meeting at the high school, Mohamad reported that he sometimes finds classwork challenging because he misses the instructions given by the teacher or, if presented with a lot of written text, he is uncertain of exactly what he needs to do. His ‘adjustment sheet’ said that he benefits from individualised instructions and has previously received adjusted lesson activities where the key information is highlighted, and the tasks clearly broken down into parts so Mohamad knows what he needs to complete. Some of Mohamad’s classmates have stated in class they’ve found the scaffolding really helpful for them as well. When diagrams are used in class – including pictures in text – Mohamad needs image descriptions. His assessments are also adjusted to meet his educational and access needs, sometimes provided in a separate room where his computer and CCTV were set up for his use, and a ‘reader’ could be provided to read the task aloud to him. At other times, the assessment was pre-loaded onto his computer so that he could use a ‘text-to-speech’ function so that the test questions could be read aloud.
During his primary schooling, Mohamad received fortnightly support from the specialist teacher who holds additional qualifications in supporting the learning of students with vision impairment. The Principal of the high school indicated that they would make contact with this teacher so that the service could continue into high school.
The primary school has a sun safe policy that requires all students to wear a hat and sunscreen while outdoors. When Mohamad goes outside of the classroom, he also wears sunglasses. To ensure Mohamad didn’t feel stigmatised, the primary school changed their sun safe policy to give all students the option of also wearing sunglasses.
The playground has painted and tactile markings to support student safety. In preparation for secondary school, and on the advice of Mohamad’s specialists who have indicated that Mohamad’s vision is deteriorating, Mohamad is learning how to use a cane for the first time and has been practising using it every day when walking around his primary school, and to and from school (as these are familiar locations for him). In this way, he will become familiar with using the cane in an unfamiliar location before going to high school. Mohamad’s orientation trainer from Vision Australia visits the school weekly to check on Mohamad’s use of his cane and, while at the school, works with his class teacher and other school staff to provide strategies to support him and to monitor his safety when using the cane. This included teaching students about the tactile markings and how to help ensure Mohamad is safe when using his cane.
A detailed plan to transition to high school was written at the Year 6 meeting, with Mohamad’s input, and is currently being enacted. At this point, there is a strong emphasis on orientation and mobility training that focuses on Mohamad becoming familiar with how to use a cane. So that he does not miss school, Mohamad requested that this orientation and mobility training take place on weekends.