The school year has begun and your child who is blind or visually impaired is not receiving blindness-specific educational services. What can you do?
Most importantly, learn about the process of educating a child who is blind or visually impaired. The first step entails your child receiving federally mandated, blindness-specific assessments, which reveal your child’s strengths and areas necessitating instruction before your child can fully access the core curriculum. The educational team, including yourself, will develop relevant instructional goals targeting these areas, for instance in assistive technology, braille, orientation and mobility, and social skills. This set of goals, including the frequency and duration of specialized instruction, is created and documented in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.
Federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, mandates your child receive the services documented in the IEP. The law does not state your child must have a teacher of students with visual impairments, unfortunately, but does mandate your child receive services from a highly qualified individual as defined by your individual state of residence. Because there are shortages of teachers of students with visual impairments and mobility specialist, learn the options you have when your school district either does not have a TVI or O&M specialist or does not have an adequate number of vision-related service providers.
If you have concerns or notice a discrepancy between what your child should be receiving and what is being received, problem-solve with your child’s school. No doubt you will have to be an advocate for your child.
If you need further advice, seek counsel by posting on the FamilyConnect message boards, commenting on this blog, or by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or the FamilyConnect Facebook page. We will respond. With your permission, we can also request counsel on your behalf from other parents and professionals of children who are blind or visually impaired on our Facebook page. (Thank you to the many parents and professionals who have lovingly provided direction, encouragement, and feedback.)
Lastly, the American Council of the Blind has an advocate program. If you call them at 1-800-424-8666, they will pair you with an individual who can advise you on your child’s services.
This is a supportive community. Let’s brainstorm together and take off that heavy weight of worry.