The Department of Education and Skills (DES) provides funding for visiting teachers for children who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired.
As of the 20 March 2017, the management of visiting teachers transferred from the DES to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
Visiting teachers are qualified teachers with particular skills and knowledge of the development and education of children with varying degrees of hearing loss and/or visual impairment. They offer longitudinal support to children, their families and schools from the time of referral through to the end of post-primary education.
Each visiting teacher (VT) is responsible for a particular region and is allocated a caseload of students. The VT supports children/young people, parents, guardians, teachers and other professionals involved with the child. The frequency and nature of support takes into account a range of factors based on the individual’s needs. The work of the VT involves liaising with other professionals and agencies such as audiological scientists, ophthalmology services, speech and language therapists, low vision specialists, psychologists, early intervention teams, school staffs, and with parents.
Referral Process and Procedures for Visiting Teachers
Referrals may be made in writing to visiting teachers by:
- HSE Audiological and Ophthalmology Services
- Eye Clinics
- National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI)
- Cochlear Implant Unit, Beaumont Hospital
Each referral should be made on the standard referral form, and must be accompanied by an up-to-date audiology or ophthalmology report, as appropriate.
Referrals should be sent directly to the local visiting teacher.
Visits to the Home
The VT interacts directly with babies and younger children, to support their development. Support is usually provided in the home in the presence of the parents and visits take place by mutual agreement. The VT may:
- provide information and advice to parents about their child’s hearing or visual impairment
- reinforce and model good communication and language support for children with hearing loss through everyday activities, interaction and play
- inform parents about the range of communication options available, including spoken and sign language
- work on stimulating vision and provide support in the development of pre-braille skills and mobility for children with visual impairment
- discuss and demonstrate the management of amplification devices, low vision aids and assistive technologies
- help parents to monitor and celebrate their child’s progress
- provide information on the range of education options available to assist parents in choosing a pre-school or school for their child as the child approaches the relevant age
- make recommendations to the preschool or school regarding assistive technologies that may be required when the child is enrolled, and
- facilitate contact with other parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired so that parents can share experiences and information and can provide mutual support.
Visits to the Primary School
At primary school level, the support provided by the VT may include:
- direct teaching, particularly in the areas of language and communication
- modelling teaching approaches for mainstream and special education teachers contributing to the child’s school support plan in cooperation with parents and school staffs
- assessing and recording the child’s progress in attainment of targets
- empowering mainstream staff to deliver the curriculum by advising them of the potential educational and social impact of hearing loss or visual impairment on a child’s development
- making recommendations and advising teachers on the use of assistive technologies, amplification equipment, low vision aids
- advising on the acoustics (in the case of deafness) and safe environment (in case of visual impairment) in the classroom, and
- liaising with other professionals and agencies who provide services for children with hearing loss or visual impairment.
Visits to the Post-Primary School
In advance of transition to post-primary school, the VT works with the parents and schools to assist with the transition process. In addition to the type of support provided at primary school level, the VT at post-primary level:
- assists with the child’s transition from primary to post-primary
- makes recommendations regarding reasonable accommodations provided by the State Examinations Commission, and support schools’ application for such accommodations, where appropriate and,
- prepares a transition report which the student may provide to disability officers in third level education, further education and training agencies, or potential employers.