Féach is a Support Group for Parents of Blind and visually impaired Children

Feach Spring Newsletter 2021

 

 

Spring Newsletter 2021

In our strategy survey Education, Education and Education came up again and again as the most pressing issue. To this end we are in the process of producing guides in leaflet and video format to support parents at every stage in their child’s education.

In this issue

Credit Union Art Competition, Bookshare, Campabilities, Peer to Peer, Advocacy and More!

 Laoise Patterson, one of our young members came second in her category in the National Credit Union Art competition final. The online event was watched by her whole school. Laoise loves everything creative, she enjoys art, cooking, writing and was happy to return to school in March and see all her friends again

 

 

  

 FEACH LAUNCHES its new strategy INTO 2021 WITH A BANG

 

EMPOWERING PARENTS TO SUPPORT THEIR BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED CHILDREN TO LIVE INDEPENDENT LIVES



Our Guide for 0-3 years, a Transition from Pre-school to Primary, Guide for 3-6 years, Guide to Educational Support in School and Guide 6-9 years are all complete. Email feachmail@gmail.com  if you want copies of our leaflets. 

Guide for Principal’s on how to Support Blind and Visually Impaired Students in School and Transition to Post Primary are currently in production so it is a busy and productive time. 

A huge thank you to NCBI who stepped in last year and gave us a grant to get all this up and running. Through the grant we now have Niamh King working part time in her home office, we finally have the stability to initiate our new strategy and increase our reach to meet and support more parents.

Apart from Niamh, Féach is a totally voluntary organisation, with our new guide comes new costs, if you or your family wish to raise money for Féach to help us continue, please do. 

NCBI Bookshare

 

Did you know you can get access to over 700,000 books via Bookshare Ireland - If your child has a visual impairment they are entitled to access all these books. Available in 6 different formats including Braille Ready format and audio this really is revolutionary. 

Make sure you have Easy Reader installed on your device and you are good to go. There are 2 webinars on this month if you want to learn more, or otherwise just log straight into

https://www.bookshare.ie/en

https://www.ncbi.ie/event/making-the-most-of-bookshare-ireland-and-the-easyreader-app/

 

Support Group with Fighting Blindness

Aoife Kearney continues to run our Peer to Peer support group. This meets on-line every second Thursday in the month from 8:00 – 9:00 pm. Feedback tells us parents are finding it a great support and a great way of chatting to others in similar situations. Contact kearnea@tcd.ie to book your place.

Advocacy

What we’ve done so far

Successfully campaigned to have all VI students included in July Provision for 2020 and 2021. We are currently working to ensure its availability in post Covid times. 

25 Questions you had about the Visiting Teacher Service – We have been working closely with NCSE to complete this document. It will give huge clarity to parents on exactly who is responsible for what. Publication due early May.

We are in constant communication with politicians creating awareness for our cause, Ivana Batik, Thomas Pringle, Josepha Madigan and Aodhan O’Riordan have all responded favorable to our issues

 

 

Aoife Kearney took to the RTE News to outline the challenges her daughter faced in lockdown

 

 

Camp Abilities 2021 : Hope you are having a ball!


Did you know – an IEP is now an SSP?

Did you know – a resource teacher is now an SET?

Did you know – they used to think the world was Flat

Confused? All  you need to know Educational Supports made easy is coming – keep and eye on Féach Group Page


 

 

Horizons - Support Group for Parents of children with Sight Loss

 

Feach LogoFighting Blindness Logo 

 

 

Here at Féach and Fighting Blindness we recognise that parents of children who are living with sight loss may face unique challenges and difficulties. As well as feelings of anxiety and loss, the isolation and uncertainty can be difficult to manage. It can be hard to find other families familiar with the daily challenges of living with sight loss.

There are often many complex practical issues to deal with, such as medical, educational and social matters to consider. Many parents find it useful to talk through their feelings and experiences with someone else who understands what they are going through. Great support can be found in connecting with others who have faced similar difficulties.

Féach and Fighting Blindness are commencing a pilot peer support group for such parents. This will be held on the second Thursday of each month from 8 October (7.30 – 9pm). The group will be run by a skilled and experienced facilitator and held over the Zoom platform.* It is hoped that this mode of communication will allow for participation by individuals throughout the country.

· Dates: 2020: Thursday 8 October; 12 November; 10 December. 2021 dates to be confirmed.

· The Group will meet from 7.30 to 9pm.

· Venue: Zoom.

*Training on Zoom can be provided by Fighting Blindness in advance of joining.

If you think this may be of interest to you or someone you know, please contact us on: 01 674 6496 or email insight@fightingblindness.ie.

Please note that places on this group will be limited to 14 participants.

We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about the group and it will also give us the chance to get a sense of your support needs, what kind of service you feel would be helpful, time commitments etc. Please note that this is not Group Therapy.

The Implications of Covid-19 on the Education of Pupils who are Blind and Visually Impaired

 

Thank you all those who filled in our survey regarding Covid-19 and its implications on our childrens education. 

A detailed report on the findings is available at the link below. The results are pretty shocking

images/uploads/file/Feach%20Submission%203%20(2).pdf

Blind & Visually Impaired children left stranded by DES in Covid Lockdown


Parents of Visually Impaired Students Angry at Visiting Teacher Performance & NCSE inaction During School Closure

28th June 2020: A new survey of parents of visually impaired students found that 58% have received no contact from their assigned Visiting Teacher to discuss their home schooling needs.
 
The survey organised by Féach, a voluntary organisation to support parents of visually impaired & blind children, also found that 49% have not received any adapted school materials from their school.
 
Aoife Kearney head of Féach said "There has been no guidance from the Department of Education and Science on the provision of resource teaching remotely. Our children have lost months of the weekly 1:1 teaching they normally receive during resource hours. The additional skills they need such as Braille and Assistive Technology have not been addressed. The National Council for Special Education,who oversee the Visiting Teacher service for Visually Impaired students, have issued no guidelines for the role of Visiting Teachers under remote learning conditions"
 
Further survey results reveal:
 
  • Of the parents who have been contacted, 66% said it was by email only
  • 35% of parents felt that the contact they had received from their class teacher was insufficient
  • 68% say that their Visually Impaired child is struggling more than their non-visually impaired sibling
  • Nearly 50% of parents say that their Visually Impaired child is struggling academically & emotionally since schools closed.
 
Aoife continues "Our survey reveals that remote learning is not working well for a large number of students who are blind/visually impaired. Most parents do not have the specialised knowledge of Braille or assistive technology to help their children. Many teachers seem not to have considered the unique access needs of their blind/visually impaired student when setting work for home"
 
Coupled with this is the limitations of the DES Summer Education program. This was extended to blind and VI students in primary school, but not to those in post primary students. This decision is "baffling" head of advocacy Eithne Walsh said. Educational demands increase not decrease as blind/vi students move into post primary school. "Yet they are completely abandoned".

A full report on the survey findings is available on request.

For more information contact:
Eithne Walsh - Head of Advocacy Féach
087 9880518

 

Enough is Enough

Normally there are 12 VT's for 1200 blind/vi students nationwide. Currently there are 3 vacant positions due to retirements! The NCSE were aware of this situation since last year yet they had still not recruited new staff by September. We now find ourselves in a position starting a new academic year with some students having no VT service, those that do have a service are finding that it is so diluted that, a number of months into the school year and the school has not received a visit. There are students country wide without equipment, without books, without the know-how to download books, with teachers who have no idea how to support them - They are sitting in school without access to the curriculum - Are they supposed to be grateful that they have a place?
 
If your child is in this situation we are asking you to fill in a complaint form and email it to the NCSE. It is only with a paper trail that we can begin our real fight for equality in education.  Even if your child has a VT but tThe service is sporadic as the VT is too busy with a huge workload, fill in the form. If your child is not receiving enough Braille tuition fill in the form, if your child has never received their 6 week typing lesson fill in the form, if your child has not got the correct equipment, laptop, magnifier, fill in the form. If your child is getting no one on one resource classes to catch up on what they miss in class, fill in the form.
 
These are not services you should be grateful to get, these are services your child has the right to receive and needs to receive, in order to simply access the curriculum as their sighted peers do.  If they are not receiving these services they are not been treated equally. Access to education is a right.
 
I have attached a link to the NCSE complaint form.  ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Comment-and-complaint-Procedure-FINAL13.05.15.doc.pdf
These forms can feel very intimidating and hence the lack of formal complaints received by the NCSE. If enough of us fill in the complaints then we start a paper trail. We are resorting to this as we have met with the NCSE consistently over the last 5 years and the service our children receive is getting worse instead of better. 
 
If you need any assistance filling in the form please e-mail us here at feachmail@gmail.com 

 

Leaving Certificate Exam Accommodations

Hi All,

 
Just a reminder to those without a Visiting Teacher Service at this time, the school has to apply for the Leaving Certificate Exam Accommodations by next Friday 25th of October. 
 
Visiting Teachers will be working on them at the moment. If you are in an area with no VT Service or a limited one, contact the school to remind them of this. If you need any help in this area just email us hear and we will help you as much as we can. 
 
Kind regards
 
Eithne
Head of Advocacy
Féach

Open call for help from our Chairwoman

Hi All,
 
We have recently had a meeting regarding where to go from here - We are looking at the idea of becoming a registered Charity and employing someone on a part-time basis to run Feach.
 
Over the last 10 years the needs of our membership has changed. With the development of the dedicated child services section of NCBI and the increased opportunities provided for our kids through Vision Sports, Campabilities', Blind Tennis, Water sport Inclusion games etc. The skill and social needs of our children are finally being met by support agencies.
 
This leaves Feach with time to concentrate on other key areas affecting our children mainly:
 
  • Support to parents of newly diagnosed children
  • Advocating in the areas of education, sport, employment and equality
 
The current system of relaying on voluntary committee member does not give us the continuity to carryout the above roles effectively. Were we to become a charity and build a profile it would help in our advocating role. The recent changes in how the Department of Education is allocating resources has really affected students in Secondary school. Our powerlessness in this area has highlighted to us the need to increase our profile in order to become effective.
 
Where we to become a charity we would be entitled to apply for funding to employ someone on a part-time basis, this would give us the continuity we need to ensure Feach is fit for purpose and can do what we need it to do.
 
Now in order to do this we need expertise - we need to put a committee together to get this up and running. The existing committee are all on board but we need more people with relevant skills. Can you help?
We are looking for a time commitment of 2-3 hours a month until we are up and running.  A lot of this will involve on-line research and emailing each other as our membership is spread out all over the country. For those of you with young kids I would say one of the best ways to support your kids is to get involved, it helps give you a sense of control and gives them a great role model - the greatest gift to give your kid is the skill to self advocate, if they can let people know what they need, and if they fully understand that they have the right to equality, they will find it much easier to navigate this world as they get older.
 
On a personal note when I was first asked to help out with Feach - I thought what could I do that could be of any help, I was barley keeping my head above water. Yet it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding, eye opening, frustrating, fascinating experiences of my life and one that has opened many doors for me.
 
Its time now to move Feach on to the next stage for the next generation of young Blind/VI kids, your help is needed to do this. Please email me at ettiewalsh@eircom.net and we will start the ball rolling
 
Kind regards,
 
Eithne

Feach 

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