A warm hello to you, parent or family member of a young child who is blind or visually impaired. My assumption is you are here because your child has recently been diagnosed with an eye condition, or you suspect your child has a visual impairment. You likely wonder if your child is eligible for vision-related services at home and/or at daycare, and if so, what types of assessments will be conducted to determine the type and amount of services which will prepare your child for a successful school experience.
Early Intervention Services
If your son or daughter is under three years of age and has low vision or blindness, your family may qualify for early intervention services through your state; these services are typically free of charge. If you have yet to obtain these optional, highly recommended services, begin by consulting your local school district. Services will generally include a teacher of students with visual impairments and an orientation and mobility specialist whose main goals are to equip you, primary caregivers, to confidently raise your child.
In order to plan an appropriate educational program for your child, the teacher of students with visual impairments should conduct a Functional Vision Assessment, and the orientation and mobility specialist should conduct an Orientation and Mobility Assessment. The team may also choose to conduct a Learning Media Assessment and one or more general developmental assessment.
- The Functional Vision Assessment, which may include Dr. Christine Roman’s CVI Range Assessment if your child has a cortical/cerebral visual impairment, identifies how your child uses his vision in a variety of environments and contexts. This provides helpful information regarding how your child can best use any remaining vision such as recognizing your child sees best in a well-lit environment, when sitting to the left of an object or person, when high color contrast is utilized, when told in advance what to look for, or when focusing on a moving object.
- The Orientation and Mobility Assessment identifies if your young child is age-appropriately motivated to move, gaining an awareness of his body, gaining an awareness of his environment, utilizing his remaining senses to obtain information about his environment, and moving within the environment.
- While a Learning Media Assessment is typically conducted when your child reaches school age, the teacher for students with visual impairments may opt to conduct the assessment at an earlier age. This assessment identifies how your child uses his remaining senses to obtain information. It provides helpful information such as recognizing your child is most attentive and responsive to sounds, which may shape how you teach your child. This assessment also helps the educational team (yourself included!) decide how your child will learn to read and write. It should be noted that according to the law, your child should learn braille unless it is determined and documented as an inappropriate choice for your child.
- General Developmental Assessments are used to identify your child’s strengths as well as developmental milestones where the team can provide motivation and skills necessary for progression. The assessments are also utilized to chart your baby’s progress over time.
Individualized Family Service Plan
After the assessments have been conducted, the parents or primary caregivers and the team of teachers and service providers create specific goals for the child in a meeting. It is here that the types and amount of services needed are defined and documented in the Individualized Family Service Plan.
Now services can begin!