The eligibility criteria require the school district to not only document visual acuity but how vision loss impacts the education of a student with a visual impairment. The medical eye report will provide a diagnosis and a visual acuity but does not explain how the vision loss impacts the student’s access to the educational environment. This information must be obtained using specialized assessments that look at the unique needs of a student with a visual impairment. Those specialized assessments will address the following questions:
- how the vision loss negatively impacts the student’s education
- what specially designed instruction is needed (see professional supports)
- what is the primary literacy medium for learning (braille, print, auditory)
- what modification or accommodations are needed
- what related services are needed
A certified teacher of the visually impaired and sometimes an orientation and mobility specialist are the only persons qualified to perform assessments which are unique to students with vision loss. If a district does not have a certified person on staff, the district can request a Blind Skills Specialist to conduct the assessment. (Under some circumstances, a district may request that the Blind Skills Specialist assist their certified teacher of the visually impaired.)
To request an assessment, submit the following:
- signed notice of action with list of assessment(s) requested
- a signed release of information with student name and name of the specific BSS,
- a copy of the eye report, and
- any current IEP or 504 plan, if applicable.
NOTE: All new student referrals made to the Blindness Skills Specialist office will be given prompt attention. However we do cover a large geographic region so it is critical that the school district contact the Blindness Skills Specialist prior to obtaining a notice of action to ensure that an assessment can be completed within required timelines.
Specialized Assessments for Students with a Visual Impairment
A Functional Vision Assessment (FVA) is a systematic assessment of a student’s ability to use his or her vision in a variety of settings. This includes interviews with the parent, teachers, and student. It also includes observations in a variety of settings. Areas of assessment include evaluation of a student’s visual motor skills, distance vision, near vision, visual fields, contrast sensitivity, light sensitivity, color vision, and environmental accommodations. The functional vision evaluation will assist in determining many questions asked as a part of the IEP development process. This includes: impact of vision loss on learning, appropriate print size, seating position, instructional or environmental modifications or accommodations and what specially designed instruction is needed. It may include recommendations related to instruction in the expanded core curriculum and may demonstrate a need for an Orientation and Mobility Assessment.
The Learning Media Assessment (LMA) is used to determine the most effective learning medium for literacy and communication. This can be visual, auditory, or tactual, or a combination of all of these modes of learning. Assessment includes the student’s approach to tasks, print size needed, auditory skills, tactual skills, and access to technology. An evaluation of a student’s reading levels may be included in the LMA. The outcome of the LMA will be a recommendation of regular print, large print, braille, auditory materials, or a combination and is used for IEP, Form A decision. At times the certified teacher of the visually impaired will combine this assessment within the Functional Vision Assessment.
An Assistive Technology Assessment is used to determine the use of and instructional recommendations related to computer and vision related technology. This may include text to speech methods, screen magnification programs, optical character recognition, braille/ audio and print access, CCTV’s and large print or talking devices used for educational purposes.
An Orientation & Mobility Assessment evaluates the ability to travel safely in both familiar and unfamiliar indoor /outdoor environments. Orientation skills, the ability to understand travel planning and using information to know where you are is also addressed as a part of this assessment. Orientation and Mobility assessment occurs in settings or environments, in which the skills naturally occur: home, school, and neighborhoods.
In order to address all of the needs of a student with vision loss the IEP team needs to consider both the core curriculum and the specialized expanded core curriculum. The specialized assessment process typically identifies how the student with a vision loss will access the core curriculum. Core curriculum includes the following content areas:
- English/language arts
- Social Studies
- Fine arts
- Physical Educaton
- Business Educaton
Expanded Core Curriculum
Compensatory/Access Skills or Functional Academic Skills, including communication modes. Compensatory Skills are those skills needed to access all areas of the core curriculum and include concept development, study skills, organizational skills, speaking and listening skills. Functional Skills are those skills learned by students with additional disabilities to achieve the highest level possible and include opportunities to work, play, socialize and take care of personal needs.
- Orientation and Mobility: This area teaches students how to travel safely, efficiently and independently in both familiar and unfamiliar areas in natural settings of home, school and community. Instruction includes the following skills – environmental concepts, basic travel skills, gross motor skills, cane skills, and street crossing skills. Students require instruction and orientation to neighborhoods or areas such as home, classroom, school building, playgrounds, residential neighborhoods, commercial / business areas, public transportation skills, and transition to adulthood travel skills.
- Social Interaction: Instruction in this area is because so much of what is learned about social interaction in through visual observation of skills. Students who are blind and visually impaired must be taught appropriate social behavior and this instruction must be taught in a systematic and sequential manner. Skills taught in the area include interaction with family, peers, and others. Also included is recognition and expression of emotions, nonverbal communication, and courteous behavior, personal and civic responsibilities.
- Independent Living Skills or Activities of Daily Living: This area consists of the skills and tasks that a student who is blind or visually impaired must perform in accordance with their ability in order to be as independent as possible. Skills in this area include personal hygiene, dressing, money management, time management, shopping skills, cooking and cleaning skills, banking skills, budget skills, and organizational skills.
- Recreation and Leisure Skills are those skills needed to find life-long enjoyment and physical activity well into adulthood. Some of the skills taught in this area include management of leisure time, solitary play, social play, physical games and sports, pet care, and arts and crafts.
- Career Education addresses the competencies related to careers and vocations. There is significant unemployment and underemployment of blind and visually impaired adults so this topic is critical. Vision loss impacts the student’s incidental learning of skills and knowledge regarding the world of work.
- Technology addresses the needs of students to access the printed environment and produce written communication. Consideration is given to all modes of communication and learning through the use of appropriate technology.
- Sensory Efficiency Skills are those skills that refer to a person’s visual, auditory and tactual skills. This area addresses each individuals needs in utilizing all senses to enhance learning. Planning appropriate learning activities for efficient and effective use of vision is included.
- Self Determination: This area was added to the Expanded Core Curriculum in 2004 and is a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated behavior.
Understanding the unique needs in both areas of the Core Curriculum and the Expanded Core Curriculum should enable the team to work together to develop a comprehensive educational program for a student who is blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities. All students with visual impairments or blindness in the Southwest Missouri Region are maintained on the BSS caseload. As new referrals qualify for services, they are added to the BSS caseload.
Please contact the BSS office at 417-836-8872 with all new referrals or questions about services provided by the office.
Guides and Resources
DESE: The link is to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Information on the topic of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
MSB: The link is to the Missouri School for the Blind. There are resources for parents and resources for schools which assist the district when serving students who are blind or visually impaired.
NASDE: This is a link to the “Blind and Visually Impaired Students – Educational Service Guidelines” that was developed in a partnership between the National Association of State Directors of Education and the Perkins School for the Blind.
ACVREP: This is a link to the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. The academy maintains a directory of certified orientation and mobility specialists.
CEC-DVI: This is a link to the Council of Exceptional Children, Division of Visual Impairment. At this web site a list of position papers related to the topic of visual impairments are listed.
National Agenda This is a link to a description of the National Agenda for the Education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities.
Expanded Core Curriculum: This is a link to a description of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students who are blind or visually impaired.
Missouri State University: This is a link to a description of the MSU, teacher certification or graduate program in the area of visual impairment and orientation and mobility.