When your child is entering a school setting, you will be the advocate to ensure they get the help that they need to make their education a success. You are looking for adaptations and special considerations that are offered under special education in your school or county. Inquiring about your special education program at a preschool level may be your first encounter with programming. Special education will help your child enter into an avenue that will maximize their potential. This will begin with an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.
Obtain a Doctor’s Report:
In order to qualify for services you will be asked to provide a doctors report from a qualified ophthalmologist that states your child’s visually acuity. It should also include background of their diagnosis and whether the visual impairment is progressive or degenerative and if it is a permanent condition. If your child’s visual impairment involves limitations in their peripheral vision that should also be included. Keep in mind a visual impairment is a visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the best eye when corrected with glasses or contacts. This acuity is key in qualifying your child as visually impaired.
Contact your local school district or county:
Contact your school district or county to inquire how they provide their VI services. Some counties provide these, some may contract VI services and in many cases these services are generated through your individual school district. To find your local school district, use your web browser to find your school district. One of the easiest ways to find your local school district is to go to: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/ and enter your zip code. This will provide contact information. You will want to describe what you are looking for and in all likelihood you will be transferred to special education within the local school district or within a county or regional district.
Visual Efficiency Report:
If you have provided enough information that qualifies your child as a potential visually impaired student, a team member who is qualified as a visually impaired teacher consultant should schedule a visual efficiency evaluation. They will be looking at factors that help to understand how the child’s visual impairment will impact his or her education.
Their report will include information such as the distance they will need to sit in proximity to instruction, the print size they will require, or if they are candidates for learning Braille. It will include the visual acuity information that you have provided and will be presented at the IEP meeting. They will provide their recommendations on how much service they feel your child needs and some specifics on the accommodations they will require.
If your child has a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the best eye corrected they will be evaluated by a Orientation and Mobility Specialist. They will generate a report that will help to understand service needs to teach moving independently around the child’s environment and eventually around their community.
Scheduling the IEP:
You will be assigned a date for the IEP to take place. When the IEP process begins, paperwork provided by your district will begin a time line that specifies the duration of the evaluation process. It is usually a 30-day period required by law.
Your Plan for the IEP:
The IEP will consist of: a school district representative, a teacher consultant for visually impaired or TCVI, an orientation and mobility specialist or O & M specialist, and general education teacher in most cases. You are a part of the team and they will honor your requests and ideas. Make sure you speak up at the IEP. This is where a few prepared notes with you questions and concerns will help.
The TCVI and general education teacher will provide at least 2 goals each. These goals will be monitored and reported on in writing so that parents understand progress being made on them. If you have concerns this is the arena to express them.
The VI professionals will be recommending the service time they will be providing. This is usually expressed in minutes and sessions per week or per month. It is important that you as a parent or advocate understand if the goals that have been provided can be reached with the amount and type of service that has been suggested. Service can be “direct” meaning the TCVI will spend specific and scheduled times to work with the student or “indirect” which is consultative based and does not involve a specific time to work with the child directly. If you feel your child should receive direct services you should express that desire at this time.
Often technology is a big part of the VI student’s education. This will be discussed and specified in the IEP. If you have suggestions or already know what technology works for your child, make that known at this time. Having specifics on the necessary technology needed for your child in writing will make it easier to accomplish “follow through” by your district.
Most IEPs can be accomplished in one, 1-2 hours meeting. If there are serious differences in what your expectations are verses what your district can provide, you can ask for the IEP to be tabled until these concerns can be resolved. In most cases your district or provider wants this to be a smooth procedure and will do their utmost to make this a comfortable process.
- US Department of Education: http://idea.ed.gov/
- IDEA regulations (downloadable text) available on this webpage: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/statuteregulations/
- Fact Sheet prepared jointly by US Department of Justice and US Department of Education on communicating with students who have vision or hearing disabilities. This combines requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and provides clarification on the interface of these two pieces of federal legislation and accompanying regulations: http://www.ada.gov/doe_doj_eff_comm/doe_doj_eff_comm_faqs.htm
- Center for Parent Information and Resources: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/iep/
- For help finding your Parent Training and Information Center or Community Parent Resource Center, go to: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/
- Understood (a website for learning and attention issues): https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/ieps/understanding-individualized-education-programs#item0
- Sample of an IEP (please note that states and local school district forms may differ from that shown in this sample): http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/modelform-iep.pdf