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The Covid 19 Effect – Observations and First Hand Experiences

The Benefits and Challenges of Learning at Home Due to Covid 19

During the last few months many young people with CVIs have found access to their education extremely challenging.

This situation will persist for the foreseeable future, so we are sharing what we have learned from the experiences of affected families. We hope this will help those working in education to recognise and address the key issues, and enable them to give optimum support.

The benefits

Many parents of children with CVIs have told us that during 'lockdown' their child has become calmer and happier. This is helping their child make significant progress in their studies. Their familiar home learning environment, combined with lack of time pressures, is proving to be quieter and calmer, making them more relaxed than at school.

A lot of parents have worked hard to create visually uncluttered work spaces. This has also helped the children to give greater focus, enabling them to work at their own pace, giving them time to recap new information, and helping them to embed it. We've been told by parents that this situation has enhanced their child's retention of information and learning, but this has come at a cost.

The challenges

This may explain why we've come to learn of an increasing number of parents who are considering 'Education Otherwise' (https://www.educationotherwise.org), but this is a huge commitment, coming at significant personal and financial cost for families, who feel under the pressure that they have no other choice for their child's wellbeing. This approach is not a viable option for most families. Many live with the stress and anxiety caused by their child living in a state of constant 'high alert' when at school, and this has inevitably spilt over into home family life.

We cannot stress enough the importance of relaxed, calm, clutter-free learning environments.

Several young people, including university students, have reported to us that being exposed to lots of screen time is very tiring, even when materials are accessible. So frequent 'screen breaks' are needed, but this is not possible if they have to sit through lengthy 'live' lectures.

For many who are studying via remote learning platforms, or are using electronically delivered learning materials, the following problems are common. Yet many can be avoided with forethought and careful pre-planning.

  • Opportunities need to be given to review material later
  • Chunked' information is easier to access and learn
  • Audio versions can be much easier to learn because dual processing sight and sound is difficult
  • 'Zoom' calls are often stressful, especially when the video viewing option is enabled
  • Participating in, and keeping up with conversations can, for some, be very taxing and tiring, meaning that alternative approaches are needed

For younger children, electronic worksheets and learning platforms are being more frequently used, including for homework tasks. This requires........

  • Modified electronic worksheets with visual clutter removed, this must meet the individual needs of each child
  • Text must be matched in size, boldness and spacing, to the child's ability to access all the information. It is important to remember that for people with CVIs this often bears no relation to their measured visual acuity (clarity of vision). Those we know who are able to 'read' standard print size have often reported that, when they have had slightly larger print with wider line spacing, they can read with more ease and have been less tired, and able to retain more information
  • The vast majority of people with CVIs need larger print with extra line spacing,many preferring it to be in bold also. This is particularly true for all who have reduced contrast sensitivity.

Some parents have told us that they have had no option but to modify worksheets themselves. This is not their role. This should be done by the child's school as a 'reasonable adjustment'.

In primary schools in particular, many online resources are used which cannot be modified via the learning platform. Many resources are of poor contrast, have visually 'busy' backgrounds and may involve inaccessible animations.

A child may have to progress through several attainment levels to receive a 'reward' certificate. This has proved very upsetting and demoralising for one child we have heard of.

To give teaching material that cannot be accessed goes against disability legislation which is founded upon giving equality of access.

Alternative, accessible teaching materials and methods must be used, if learning is to take place, and children are to maintain good self-esteem and gain confidence from their learning experiences.

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought these issues to light, but their relevance to every child, (indeed adult) with CVIs is fundamental.

Provision of accessible learning materials and methods must be put in place.

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