Why You Should Have A Tutor From Your School


As a student with low vision, I often struggle reading numbers and graphs in my classes. ┬áThis isn’t because of a math disorder, it’s just that I have trouble seeing. I was fortunate enough to have tutors, who were teachers at my school, that were able to give me extra assistance with my assignments and help me realize that while my eyes may not like all of the numbers and tiny font involved, my brain loves math, and I am quite good at it- I even scored in the 99th percentile for mental math on my ACT (more on those accommodations here). Here are some of the ways having a tutor from my school helped me succeed in the classroom. Please note that these tutors were at a paid private tutoring service, and I never had lessons in the school.

They know the curriculum

In my first school district, there was a standard curriculum that all of the teachers would follow, so there was little to no differences in course content between teachers. As a result, my tutor was able to easily see what we did in class that day and explain concepts I was stuck on.

More likely to understand disabilities

The teachers who do tutoring outside of school hours really do care about their students and are highly likely to follow disability accommodations. My tutors were always awesome about using large print and computer apps during our sessions, something I really appreciated.

Access to textbooks

There were classes where I did not receive accessible textbooks on time, and the teacher would be frequently referencing a textbook I couldn’t see. My tutors had access to the same textbooks and would help me work through practice problems, drawing the problems on the board or having me write/type them out.

A look inside the classroom

While there wasn’t a lot of variation with course content, the teachers were dramatically different. Because they worked at the same school, my tutors could come observe the classroom for short periods of time and see what was going on, something that was incredibly helpful when I was routinely given inaccessible materials.

Get assignments from the teacher

One time, I was given an oral quiz because the teacher didn’t have time to enlarge my assignment. I got a 5 on the quiz…out of 100. After my tutor heard about this, they were able to get a copy of the quiz from my teacher and then we made it into an accessible format. ┬áThe original grade shot up 90 points when I retook the quiz later that day, with accessible materials.

Help provide guidance

When I was in classes where my IEP was not followed, my tutors would give me and my family guidance on how to handle these situations, or give us ideas on what to say to administration. This was very helpful, especially when I was starting at a new school and didn’t know a lot of the staff members yet.

They can be helpful in stressful situations

I had a teacher make it abundantly clear to me that I would not be receiving accessible materials while in their classroom. Following this, my tutor received permission from the school to let me work on assignments in their classroom, removing me from the stressful environment and allowing me to focus on my classwork- which they enlarged for me. For more on my accommodations for print materials, click here.

Practice using assistive technology…or not using it.

If a student uses assistive technology or alternative technology resources in the classroom, a tutor can help the student learn to integrate it into the classroom, and learn how to use the different devices. And if the student has no technology in the classroom, like how I didn’t have a graphing calculator, then they can spend more time teaching the student how to do things by hand, a topic that some teachers may not cover.

Help demonstrate understanding

When I don’t receive accessible materials, I can’t complete assignments, and some teachers would assume this was because I was stupid, when the reality was that I couldn’t see. When I completed assignments with my tutor in an accessible format, I would get very high grades, which would serve as evidence that the content wasn’t the problem, it was how it was given to me- in small print I couldn’t reaed. Read more about collecting evidence for IEP violations here.

It shows the student is trying

We always let my teachers know that I was receiving tutoring once a week from a teacher at the school, and that went a long way in showing the teachers that I was trying, and making an effort in the class. We also told my case managers and school administration about my tutoring services, especially during IEP meetings.

Having access to tutors that taught at my school was an amazing resource that really helped me in the classroom, especially in classes where my IEP was viewed as “optional.” I highly recommend that students find a tutor like this- ask the teacher or head of the department at school for tutor names, or look at private tutoring places in town to see if there are any teachers from the same school, or at least the same school district.

How Do People With Low Vision…Open a Locker?


At my middle school, all of the lockers were equipped with combination locks built directly into the locker doors. While this was a great security feature, I was unable to see the numbers on the combination lock due to my print disability, so we were left wondering how I was going to store my backpack during the school day. Fortunately, my parents and the school were able to work together and develop a solution that we implemented in high school as well. Here is how we were able to get an alternative lock for my locker.

Include accommodation in SAP, 504, or IEP

I had a Student Assistance Plan (SAP) at the beginning of middle school, which eventually was converted to an IEP for low vision. One of the accommodations written in was that I would be able to use an alternative locking mechanism to secure my locker, that would be provided by my family. The school reserved the right to search my locker at any given time and have access to it if needed, just like all of the other lockers in the school.

The lock itself

I used a padlock and had several copies of keys made that I gave to different staff members. This ensured that they would be able to access my locker if I got locked out or if it needed to be searched. Staff members that had my key included my homeroom teacher, a second trusted teacher, principal, assistant principal, and secretary.

Setting it up

The custodial staff would disengage the combination lock at the beginning of the year. I then would hook the padlock through the hole in the locker handle. It took me about five seconds to open or close my locker at any given time.

Locker location

I always requested a lower level locker so I would not have to worry about objects falling on me. This also meant students were less likely to mess with my locker while walking through the halls.  It was located with the rest of the lockers for my class and grade, and did not have any special features other than the modified lock.

Finding the locker

Even though it had a very distinctive padlock, it still was sometimes difficult to spot my locker. Luckily, the print numbers on the top were engraved so they could easily be felt. If this wasn’t the case, I would have requested clear tactile dots be placed on the locker door.

Alert staff of locker accommodation

One day in eighth grade, while I was grabbing my binder, a teacher noticed that my locker looked different than the rest of the others. Because of this, the teacher was convinced I was hiding drugs in my locker and sent me to the office, ordering a search on my locker. I found this slightly amusing, given that it would be silly to hide something in the locker that looks different than the rest, but it still happened anyway, and I was twenty minutes late for class. Make sure that other staff are aware of this accommodation so a similar situation does not occur.

If the lock is cut off

In high school, the padlock to my locker was cut off at least twice, because school security thought I was hiding drugs (again). To cover this up, they replaced my padlock with a different one. They did not alert me to what had happened, so my key didn’t work and I had no idea why. If this happens, report it to school administration as soon as possible and get copies of the new key.

Padlock alternative

One of my friends used a speed dial lock, which involves the user moving a button with their thumb, in a pattern of their choice. This was much easier for them than using a key. An example combination would be up up, down, left, right, down, up, and the school had copies of their combination on file. A similar lock can be purchased on Amazon here.

Have an explanation prepared

If a student or staff member asks why your locker is different, have a short explanation prepared. I would say “I can’t see the numbers on the combination lock, so I use this lock instead.” If it was a staff member, I would add that school administration has copies of the keys if there are any issues.

A note on teasing

While I did receive a few comments from other students about how my locker looked different than the rest, I didn’t have to deal with much teasing, likely because it was pretty well camouflaged. If teasing does become a problem, report it to the homeroom teacher as well as a guidance counselor or other school administration.

Thankfully, I never had to deal with stolen items or any students breaking into my locker when I used the padlock. This is definitely an accommodation that my family and I didn’t think about at first, but it was necessary, not to mention extremely helpful to have.

What’s in my Bag- High School Edition


It wasn’t until high school that I heavily started using technology in the classroom. I’m glad I did have the opportunity to learn about technology though, as I use it constantly in college. Here are the items I brought to high school with me daily. Note that I had an IEP with approval to use any technology.

The backpack

At my high schools, students were allowed to bring their backpacks from class to class, as long as they fit certain dimensions. I received special permission my senior year to use a rolling backpack, since I had back problems. Before that, I used a backpack with a laptop sleeve that could hold up to a 17″ laptop and had several pockets.

Laptop

I got approval to use a laptop in school starting the second semester of ninth grade. It was rare to see technology in the classroom, and assistive technology was unheard of. As a result, my first high school did not allow students to connect to the internet. I frequently used Office applications such as OneNote to take notes, Word to type assignments, and PowerPoint to follow along in class. I also was able to read textbooks and complete digital assignments, which were given to me by flash drive.

eReader

I have an entire post about how much I love my eReader here, but I wanted to include it here because it really did help me a lot in school. Being able to quickly get books in large print, and being able to fit an entire library in my hand, was extremely helpful when I had to read books in class.

iPad

Because of the lack of internet services, I didn’t start heavily using my iPad (purchased the summer before my sophomore year) until my junior year of high school, when I transferred to a new school- read more about my second high school here. I started heavily using different apps in the classroom (read my post on different apps here) and used my iPad to research information, work on virtual classes, and complete digital classwork with the app Notability. I had some textbooks on my iPad, but not many, since my virtual classes did not require textbooks.

Android phone

My Android phone was one of the first technology devices I ever used in the classroom. I used it as a magnifier and simple calculator, as well as a camera. I made sure to notify my teacher before I used my phone, so they would know it was for an educational purpose.

Magnifier

I had a small magnifier that I didn’t like using much, since the magnification would make my eyes hurt a lot, plus it was difficult for my eyes to focus. I still carried it anyway, but it was not very helpful.

Ear plugs

One day, I went to school very sick and found that my normally excellent hearing wasn’t working very well. Weirdly enough, I aced every quiz and test I had that day, because I was tuning out a lot of the background noises that normally bothered me. After that, I started using ear plugs for assessments and found that it was easier to concentrate.

Portable scanner

Instead of leaving class when my materials were not enlarged, I decided to try and make my own accessible materials. My mom bought me a portable scanner that hooked up to my computer, and I would scan in the inaccessible materials into Microsoft Word, and then make them accessible. This didn’t work very well if the page had anything other than text, and it took a long time to scan in, but it was a temporary solution to an ongoing problem. I now recommend the ScanMarker Air instead, as it scans much faster and more accurately.  Review here.

Sharpie pens

These were written in as an accommodation to my IEP, as students were normally not allowed to use pens in the classroom. I like the extra fine Sharpie pens in a variety of colors, and never had any issues with them leaking or breaking.

Rainbow paper

I received all of my paper assignments on colored paper, because it is easier to read text on a colored background- read more about that here. This was written into my IEP as well, and I had slightly different print accommodations for each subject- read about my accommodations for print materials here. It’s worth noting I did not use folders, due to the size of the paper.

Even though my school district had limited technology resources, I’m grateful that I was able to use all of these different devices, which helped prepare me for college tremendously. Read about what’s in my bag at college here.

Dear High School Teacher


I’m one of the new students in your class this year. You probably received a copy of my SAP, 504, or IEP in advance, and likely have an idea of who I am based on it. However, there are ten things that I would like to request of you, to keep in mind as the school year progresses. I might admit these things to you, I might be scared to say anything, or I might not even realize I want you to do these things. Every student is unique, but these ten things will help me tremendously:

Follow my IEP

In high school, I have the option to drop out of school, something I never had in elementary or middle school. Please don’t make me feel like I am incapable of learning, or that people with low vision don’t deserve to be in school. I might take those things to heart.

Give me a partner

Don’t make me sit away from all of the other students because I am different. Give me a partner in class that I can reach out to if I can’t see something, or that will help me with difficult assignments. Sometimes, you won’t have to choose a partner for me- one of my friends might already be in our class, and they understand my low vision.

Let me use technology in class

I know it’s tempting to take away cell phones and other devices, but I use them for my learning. I wrote here about why I can see my phone, but not small print.  I use my phone as a magnifying glass, my laptop for taking notes, my iPad for accessing online resources, and other devices. Technology is not a crutch for me, rather it enables me to succeed.

Don’t assume I’m cheating

I can’t see small font or pencil, which is why I use large print and high contrast pens. Don’t assume I am cheating off of my sighted peers next to me, as I don’t have much peripheral vision and can’t read what they are writing. And don’t even consider that I cheated off of someone behind me.

Teach me to self-advocate

I won’t be in high school forever, and it’s likely I will be moving on to post-secondary education. Teach me how I receive my accommodations and how to ask for them, so I am not left wondering these things after I graduate.  Learn more about self-advocating here.

Help me figure out where I’m going

These high school hallways are confusing, and a lot of the classrooms look the same. If you see me wandering the halls or constantly getting lost, help me navigate to wherever I am going. If you aren’t sure if I need help, ask. I might not know to look for you.

Don’t tell me how unfair my disability is

I take it pretty hard at this age when I am told that my disability or accommodations are unfair to other students. A lot of teenagers go through a phase where they wish they could get rid of their SAP, 504, or IEP and be like a normal student. It’s because there are teachers that complain about giving students extra time or large print. If it’s such a problem, why not give the entire class these resources? My geography teacher did this, and noticed a lot of grades improved, and a few students even found out they needed glasses.

Encourage me to challenge myself, and reach my potential

It’s easy to tell me I am doing good enough just by getting a C in your class, or to think I am doing good enough for a visually impaired student. Am I doing good enough as a student without a visual impairment? Would you be concerned if another student got a low grade or missed a question like I did on a test? Don’t lower your expectations just because I have lower vision. I can surprise you!

Help me find what I’m passionate about

In high school, there is a high emphasis on sports and other activities I may be excluded from because of my low vision. Help me to develop my interests and find what I am passionate about. Maybe I love music and could join band, or am interested in technology and could take a computer class (maybe even getting a Microsoft certification).  If it seems like no extracurricular activities exist for what I am interested in (this happened with assistive technology), ask me about them and let me talk to you about them.  I’m always excited when someone asks me about low vision, assistive technology, or issues with disability life.

Tell me how proud you are of me

One of the best things that a teacher can tell me is that they are proud of me. When I have teachers that tell me how they wish they never had me as a student, that can be very discouraging. Tell me that you appreciate me as a member of your class, and that you are proud of me. You’ll be remembered as one of my favorite teachers.

I thank you in advance for the influence you will have on me.  I hope that after I leave your class and graduate, I’ll be able to visit and show you all the cool things I have been up to.  Maybe it will be a cool internship, an acceptance into a highly competitive program, or an awesome website about one of my passions.  You’ll likely inspire me somehow.

Sincerely,

Your new student with low vision

Dear Middle School Teacher


I’m one of the new students in your class this year. You probably have some idea of who I am, since you recently got a copy of my SAP, 504, or IEP. Before the school year begins, I have listed ten things that I want you to keep in mind as I am in your class. I might admit these things to you, I might keep quiet, or I might not even realize that I need these things. Every student is different after all.

My accommodations likely just changed

With the transition from elementary school to middle school, I likely had my SAP, 504, or IEP accommodations change to reflect my new educational environment. I might have even just gotten an entirely new plan. I might have trouble telling you exactly what I need, or certain accommodations may not have been added to my plan yet. Don’t make a show out of giving me my large print and showing how different I am. Just give me my assignments- with the rest of the class, please!

The font size in books is a whole lot smaller

It’s easier to find large print books in the elementary school setting than in other settings. I can probably only read one or two books, if any, from the school library. Let me know in advance if I will need a certain book for class so I can find it in an accessible format. Better yet, show me Bookshare, where I can get almost any book.

This is my first time with textbooks, most likely

I never had to worry about textbooks before, and might not even realize that I have to worry about them. Most states have a free program for students with IEPs to get accessible textbooks. In Virginia, that program is AIM-VA (more here). Make sure to order my books before the first day of school, too.

If I do badly on a test, there’s a chance I couldn’t see it

With all of the graphs in math and science class, maps in history class, and blurred fonts in English class, it’s easy to get confused on a test or not realize that I can’t see something. Here are some common myths about having a print disability.

I had a pre-algebra teacher who realized I had problems seeing graphs, while I thought I could see them fine. When this teacher enlarged the graphs and added more contrast to the image, I suddenly did a lot better than before. You have no idea how much I appreciated this.  Here are some examples of accommodations for print materials.

Help me get accommodations for standardized tests

A lot of the accommodations I receive in the classroom are also available for state standardized tests- in Virginia, that is the Standards of Learning, or SOL tests (more on those and their accommodations here). This includes large print, use of assistive technology, pens, and extended time. It’s not an unfair advantage that I receive this, and don’t tell me I won’t have my accommodations either. Yes, there is such thing as a large print standardized test, and it is slightly different than the digital tests.

Help me with my locker

Almost every locker I’ve encountered in a middle school had a combination lock built in. I can’t see the numbers, so my school disabled the locking mechanism and had me use a padlock with a key instead. Because my locker looked different, other teachers or staff would demand to search it, thinking there were drugs. One year, I even had the lock chopped off and replaced with a different one- I found out when the key suddenly didn’t work. Keep an extra key to my locker in your classroom, so if I get locked out, I can borrow your key.

Understand I might be teased more

I’m starting to realize I see different than everyone else, and my fellow peers are too. I might be teased more for having bad eyesight, or having pranks pulled on me. Alternatively, other teachers may start teasing me or bullying me for having poor eyesight. Watch out for me, and if I seem preoccupied, let me know I can talk to you.

I may not be comfortable with certain activities

I might want to stay inside during field day, avoid the school pep rally, or sit out while everyone plays dodgeball. Have someone keep me company, if you can, and understand that I am nervous in social situations that require good eyesight. If I want to be included in these things though, work with me so that I can be.

I might need an alternative environment

I remember the cafeteria was always very overwhelming for me because of the food fights, noise, and difficulty finding a seat. If you can, let me and some of my friends eat in your classroom so I’m not overly stressed.  If there’s a class dodgeball game going on, let me stay in your classroom and do something else.

Don’t be scared of having me as your student

I have low vision, not eyes that can shoot lasers or turn people to stone. I see the world differently than you, and likely don’t know things any other way. If you feel like you can’t handle me, talk to my support staff in the special education department or my parents. They are willing to help, after all.

I hope that you will accept me as a member of your class, and help me to succeed this year. I thank you in advance for the influence you will have on me.

Sincerely,

Your new student with low vision

Dear Elementary School Teacher


I’m one of your new students for the year. You may have read my SAP, 504, or IEP- or maybe I don’t have any of those yet. I’m still a little kid, so my support staff and my parents are still trying to figure things out. During the year, I would like to ask that you remember these ten things, so that I may be able to thrive in your classroom. I might admit these things, I might be too scared to say them, or I might not realize I need them. After all, right now I think that everyone sees the world just like me.

I color outside the lines, because I can’t see the lines

When you hand me an intricate coloring page and tell me to color inside the lines, I might just scribble all over the page. I have no idea where the lines are, except maybe the large bold ones. In my mind, I am following your directions.

I can’t see my friends on the playground, so I stay in one place

With all the kids running around on the playground, I can’t keep track of who is who, or where they are going. For the most part, I stay in one area, like on the swingset, and wait for my friends to come find me. I’m not antisocial.

Computer games and applications might not be enlarged

Before you hand me a computer game or mobile application, check to see if it can be enlarged or made accessible- this checklist will help. If I stop interacting with the game or application, I might have come to a point where I can’t see it anymore.

Also, when the rest of the class is learning how to use technology, make sure there are accessibility settings enabled on whatever device we are learning about.  Here is how to make iPad accessible (it takes less than ten minutes), how to make Android devices accessible, and also how to make Windows 10 accessible.

If I can’t read something, chances are it’s because I can’t see it

When I seem to be having difficulty reading, it might not be the words themselves I am having trouble with, but how they are written. Use clear, bold fonts and enlarge them for me. If I’m having trouble reading handwriting, type it for me.  Here’s an example of print accommodations.

I have trouble identifying everyday things, like money

When you hand me a $1 bill and a $5 bill for the money activity in class, I might not be able to tell the difference between the two, as they are the same size and color. Work with the teacher of the visually impaired or other staff member to teach me about money. I might have issues with other everyday objects too, like clouds, flowers, people, or textures.

Don’t judge me on my ability to catch a ball

When you toss a ball at me, I can’t see it coming, so I won’t catch it. Yelling my name in a crowded room before throwing it won’t help either- I am a child, not a bat, and don’t have echolocation. Don’t assume I have an intellectual or neurological disability based on whether I can catch a ball or not.

I don’t know how bad my eyesight is

I’m still young and getting used to my vision impairment. I might have had this for a few years, or have been born with it. I don’t know what perfect vision is like, and likely believe that everyone sees just like me.

Recommend me for services as soon as possible

If you think I could benefit from occupational therapy, speech therapy, reading support, or other types of interventions, please recommend me for them. Feel free to suggest new accommodations for my SAP, 504, or IEP too, and attend my meetings when you can.  Early intervention is key, as elementary school lays the foundation for middle school, high school, and eventually college. It is amazing what a small amount of help can do.

My vision is probably going to get worse

Since I’m still growing, my vision is going to change, and it will likely get worse. I might need larger print, Braille, or more assistance in the classroom. Don’t remind me of how I used to see, as I am likely frustrated that my vision has changed.

Also, please don’t try and take my new glasses off my face to see them, or crouch down and stare at my glasses. You’re invading my personal space, and the light will hurt my eyes.

Don’t yell at me

I’m not faking my bad eyesight, and I don’t understand why I see the way I do. Don’t get angry at me or my family because you don’t want to teach a student with low vision. It’s not my fault, nor is it theirs. I just want to learn.

I’m really excited to be in your class this year, and thank you in advance for the influence you will have on me. I hope you become my new favorite teacher!

Sincerely,

Your new student with low vision

Virtual Classes in High School


At both high schools I attended, teachers often took a pencil-and-paper approach to learning. It was common for teachers to have students complete paper worksheets, take handwritten notes, and read out of textbooks. Any sighting of technology in the classroom was rare, minus the occasional graphing calculator or once a year iPad assignment. Assistive technology was an even rarer sight. Because of this, teachers were not provided the necessary resources to have a student like me, who could not read standard print materials or write clearly, and who frequently used technology. It was easy to see their frustration, and while some teachers did manage to include me in their classes, it was too difficult for others to integrate assistive technology into the classroom. So what is a student to do?

Enter, virtual classes.

Virtual classes in high school are offered through many different platforms, and can be taken full-time or part-time, for short or long term periods. These classes allow students to use their school’s or their personal technology to learn material and complete alternative, digital assignments. There are still class assessments, AP exams, and state standardized tests for classes, and students still receive the same amount of credit on their transcript. Here are ten of the reasons I am glad I took virtual classes. I took a total of sixteen virtual classes across all core subjects using the platforms Moodle, Desire2Learn, Rocket Learning, and Brigham Young University Independent Study, and graduated in 2015.  Permission to take virtual classes was not written in as an accommodation in my IEP.

Using my own technology

Often times, it was difficult to enable accessibility settings on school computers because of the restrictions set in place for students. Since virtual classes can be accessed on any internet-enabled device, I can use my own computer or iPad with settings exactly how I like them, and the school doesn’t have to worry about it.

Ability to get ahead in class

With chronic illness, there are weeks where I feel like I can get everything done and be on top of everything, and other weeks where I am spending a lot of time asleep. My teachers would post assignments early and encourage students to work ahead, which I would do when I was feeling great. As a result, it was uncommon for me to fall behind.

Practicing technology skills

It always surprises me how many students aren’t proficient in using technology. By taking virtual classes, I was able to practice researching topics on the internet with different tools, use Microsoft Office applications easily, and create my own accessible materials. This really helps me in college, as I have had professors that require all assignments be completed and submitted digitally, and have also taken virtual classes in college (more on that here).

Access class anytime

My senior year of high school, over half of my classes were virtual, and scheduled for the beginning and end of the day. Because of my chronic migraines, I was sleeping a lot more, since sleep is the only cure for my migraines, and would often do my assignments outside of traditional school hours. As long as the assignments were submitted on time, my teachers never minded this, and encouraged students to complete assignments whenever was most convenient for them.

My IEP was always followed

While I did have many teachers who followed my IEP in the classroom, there were teachers like I mentioned that had very few resources and couldn’t integrate a student with low vision into their classroom. In my virtual classes, my IEP was always followed, since I learned to self-advocate and make things accessible myself.

All materials can be enlarged

Sometimes, there would be a classroom assignment that was impossible to be made accessible. Since virtual class assignments are created with technology in mind, it is easy to change a font size or background color, zoom in on an image, or use a high contrast display.  Why I prefer digital materials here.

Take any class

There were times I was strongly encouraged not to take certain classes, as the teacher was skeptical about having a student with an IEP. For one of these classes, I took it virtually through a state program and had a teacher who was experienced not only with IEPs, but also with having students with low vision. I know I wouldn’t have had such a great experience if I had taken the class in the classroom, and I was thankful that I was able to take it virtually.

Another example is that I completed my PE and health requirements online, since being included in traditional PE classes would be near impossible- and being included in Driver’s Ed would have definitely been impossible! For more on my experience in taking PE virtually, click here.

Summer classes

I took a virtual class every summer in high school, but this setting was especially helpful when I had to repeat Algebra 2, due to my IEP accommodations not being met the first time I took the class. I found accessible graphing applications and a large print calculator, and was able to get an A when I retook the class. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about being in the classroom environment again, where it would be more difficult for me to integrate technology.

Quiet testing environment

I remember for one of my classes, the testing environment was always very noisy, and it was difficult to concentrate. While I could take some tests at home, I also took tests at my school, traveling to quiet testing locations so I could concentrate.

Improved grades

Because I was able to access all of the materials and had my accommodations followed, I often received higher grades in my virtual classes than in my traditional classes. My senior year, when I had four virtual classes, I was able to get straight As!

Because I still attended school for electives, I never had to worry about missing out on the social aspect of being in the classroom. My virtual teachers were also just an email away, if I needed them, and there were also virtual education specialists based at my school. The virtual high school setup was perfect for me, and allowed me to eventually take virtual classes in college. I would not have graduated unless I had the opportunities I was given in virtual classes.

Too High-Functioning


The teacher is passing out the classwork for the day, and there is a noticeable lack of large print or colored paper at the bottom of the pile. As it comes time to give classwork to my section, the teacher looks at me and goes “Oh shoot, I forgot you needed large print. Figure something out.” My best friend next to marks another tally on a list we call “times Veronica didn’t get her work”- in one class, we have over two dozen tallies.  I often leave the classroom to go enlarge my assignment, since I know that if I don’t, the teacher will give me a zero and remind me of how they wished I wasn’t in their class. Even though I have an IEP, and have had one since kindergarden for my low vision, that doesn’t seem to stop teachers from continuing to discriminate against me. I report this to my case manager or other staff member in the special education department, and they pretty much say the same thing each time:

“You’re so high functioning, it’s easy to forget about you!”

My parents and I are in an IEP meeting because I currently have a C, or a D, or a F in one of my classes. The teacher has repeatedly forgotten or refused to enlarge my work, saying it is a waste of resources. I have As in almost all of my other classes, Bs in a few of them. My parents are trying to figure out how an A student is getting such low grades, and why nothing is being done about it. But, by technicality, Cs and Ds are passing, and the special education department says that everything is fine, after all:

“You’re so high functioning, we have other students to take care of!”

I need some additional resources in the classroom. I try to bring this up with special education staff both at my school and at the district level. Most of my requests are ignored, because I shouldn’t need the help. When people do appear from the district level, they are asking me questions about other students, or strictly talking about other students, saying that I am an easy case, they don’t have to worry about me, there are worse-off kids that deserve their time, and I am wasting their time. I realize that the only way I will succeed is if I figure it out myself, since they always tell me:

“You’re so high functioning, you don’t need our help!”

I’m a college student who is studying assistive technology and am waiting for a friend after a band performance. I’m holding my instrument, wearing sunglasses that block out the glare of the lights, and balancing my blindness cane in the other hand. While I’m waiting, a person I have never met walks up to me and starts asking a series of rude questions about my vision and how they had never met someone like me before. They do not stop talking to me, and get frustrated with me that I don’t respond. Later on, I am told to apologize and answer their questions, and their response is almost exactly what I expected:

“You’re so high functioning, that’s inspirational!”

My typical response to people calling me high functioning used to be saying “thank you, and so are you.” However, recently my attitude changed about this, and I realized that I could replace the negative phrase with a more positive one. Despite the best efforts of school personnel, I have been able to see past the negative circumstances given to me and still succeed in school. I have discovered my passion for assistive technology and helping others to succeed. My condition is a major factor in my life, yes, but it isn’t the only thing in my life. I am not just high functioning:

“I am high achieving.”