Overview of Services for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
When your child is born with a visual impairment or acquires one through illness or injury, you may feel shocked, bewildered, and frightened. You may also find that your immediate family members, local doctors, and neighborhood schools are unfamiliar with the impact of visual impairment on a child’s learning and education. But you’re not alone.
National, State, and Local Organizations
A number of national organizations are dedicated to the well-being of visually impaired children, and they’re important sources of information and support for you. Other sources include:
- The supervising agency for early intervention services for children under the age of three in each state. The lead agency in each state may be housed in state departments of education, health, human services, or rehabilitation, although some are in agencies outside the state system. These agencies, also called Part C early intervention agencies, usually provide referrals to local programs.
- Special education professionals in state education departments that oversee education for children with disabilities, and the state vision consultant, if your state has one, who is involved in coordinating the efforts of teachers who specialize in working with visually impaired children. Your state’s department of education can tell you whether there is one in your state.
- Special schools—sometimes referred to as residential or state schools or schools for the blind—and their experienced staff.
- You may also call your local school district for assistance in receiving services. The district may have an office of special education, or their main switchboard can assist you in starting the process for receiving services.
Search for these resources and more in the APH ConnectCenter Directory of Services
At times, it may seem as if the only people who understand what you’re going through are people who have been there too. Other parents of visually impaired children, either individually or in organized groups, can offer advice based on firsthand experience, good information, and ongoing support. American Council of the Blind (ACB), the National Federation of the Blind’s National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and the Thriving Blind Facebook group, and other parent organizations can help you network with other families.
You can also find support and assistance at Center for Parent Information and Resources, which provide training about special education laws in this country, services for young children, and how parents can obtain them. Almost every state has such a center, which is federally funded and serves families statewide. Most parent centers provide help from parent advocates who will go with you to important school meetings. These are groups of parents of children with special needs who help other parents with support, information, and referrals to community services and special programs. To find a parent group, check the website of your state department of education.
Additionally, in this section, you can find the following information.
- Overview of the Service System for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
- Obtaining Services for Your Visually Impaired Child in New York State
- Obtaining Services for Your Visually Impaired Child in New Jersey
- Obtaining Services for Your Visually Impaired Child in Connecticut
- Applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if Your Child Is Legally Blind
- Fundraising: Finding the Funds to Attend Parent Conferences
- Downloadable “Overview of the Service System for Visually Impaired Children” Toolkit