The Department of Education and Skills operates a Visiting Teacher Service for deaf or hard-of-hearing children and children with visual impairments. Specially trained teachers provide the service. Visiting teachers aim to be a support to both the parents or guardian and the child. The support service can begin shortly following the birth of the child and continue through primary and post-primary education where appropriate. In addition, the teachers provide a teaching service for the pre-school child in the home if considered necessary.
Each teacher has responsibility for a particular region and travels to meet the children, parents or guardians, teachers, care staff and other professionals involved with the child as necessary. No child is too young to be referred to the visiting teacher service. The Visiting Teacher Service is free of charge.
Visiting teachers assess and evaluate the needs of each child and explain the effects of visual impairment, including the current and future implications of the impairment.
In addition, they provide information and advice to assess educational planning for children and young people with visual impairments. Visiting teachers co-operate closely with colleagues from a range of educational and other professional backgrounds, in addition to national organisations.
Visiting teachers advise schools (including pre-schools) regarding suitable teaching methods and classroom management strategies to support pupils with visual impairments in mainstream schools.
They conduct assessments and give advice in relation to equipment commonly used by people who are visually impaired and advice on additional personnel resources, when needed. Teachers can also advise schools on any necessary adaptations to the school environment required by the child with visual impairment.
Visiting teachers work with pre-school children to provide guidance and support for parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children. They inform parents of the implications of deafness for the acquisition of spoken language and Irish Sign Language (ISL), inform parents of communication methods and liaise with audiology services. Applications for home tuition in sign language should be made to the visiting teacher.
Visiting teachers also monitor the child’s language development and communication skills and give information and advice to parents on pre-school and school placements. At primary level the visiting teacher works with the principal and other staff to plan and put in place suitable supports for the child. They can provide tuition with special emphasis on language development and monitor the educational progress of the child.
Visiting teachers can refer children for assessment of low-vision aids and then train the children in their use. They help children develop tactile and other sensory skills and give advice on self-help skills and other skills needed for independent living.
They provide support in the development of pre-Braille skills where necessary and give some instruction in mobility where appropriate. Teachers can also refer the child for further mobility instruction where required. You can read more about mobility training for visually impaired people here.
Visiting teachers evaluate the acoustic environment for a deaf or hard-of-hearing child and help them manage audiology equipment.
Find out more about assistive technologies on the Assist Ireland website.
Before a child may use the Visiting Teacher Service, they must be referred for assessment by the service. Referrals may be requested by:
For visually impaired children
For deaf or hard-of-hearing children
Any health professional who wishes to refer a child should first discuss their concerns fully with the child's parents. All referrals to the service for chldren must be accompanied by an audiologist's or ophthalmologist's report.
The Visiting Teacher Service also accepts referrals regarding children where the visual impairment or deafness is the compounding rather than the major disabling condition.
There is no charge for an assessment or to avail of the Visiting Teacher Service. The service is open to all children living in Ireland. You do not have to fulfill any residence requirements to avail of the service (that is, you do not have to be living in the State for a certain period).
Before a child may be referred for assessment by the Visiting Teacher Service, you must complete an application form for the Visiting Teacher Service.
Referral applications should be sent directly to the local visiting teacher.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.