Whether your child has been diagnosed with an eye condition or you suspect your child’s poor vision is negatively affecting his education, it is important to request an evaluation for vision-related services from the school’s special education teacher or director. A teacher of students with visual impairments and/ or an orientation and mobility (travel training) instructor should conduct an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for vision-related services and if so, to reveal the type and amount of services needed for your child to receive an appropriate education.
The following three assessments should be conducted for children whose education is negatively affected by a visual impairment:
- A Functional Vision Assessment, which may include Dr. Christine Roman’s CVI Range Assessment if your child has a cortical/cerebral visual impairment, will identify how your child uses his vision in a variety of environments and contexts. This provides helpful information for your child to access the curriculum, 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.
- A Learning Media Assessment identifies how your child uses his remaining senses to obtain information. It provides helpful information such as recognizing your child is most attentive to sounds or touch, which will shape how you and teachers meaningfully instruct 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.
- An Orientation and Mobility Assessment identifies your child’s strengths and shortcomings with body concepts, environmental concepts, and with his ability to safety and efficiently travel in both familiar and unfamiliar environments.
While the following two assessments are not specifically mandated by special education law, their results are important components of a free and appropriate education of which your child is entitled under law.
- Special education law states that the school system will provide required assistive technology needed for the student’s education. The Assistive Technology Assessment determines the tools (both low- and high-tech) which enable your child to access necessary information such as material on the classroom wall, books, data on the computer, the time, a calendar, and more.
- Special education law states children are entitled to specially designed instruction to address the unique needs resulting from the child’s disability. With this in mind, in addition to the educational core curriculum, a child who is blind or visually impaired should receive instruction in the expanded core curriculum (ECC), which addresses the basic educational needs of a child who is blind or visually impaired in addition to providing the child with the skills to access the core curriculum. Therefore, an assessment documenting the present levels of performance within the nine domains of the ECC is important.
Based on the results of the assessments, the parents or primary caregivers and the educational team will determine how to provide instruction, materials, assignments, and tests in a way that your child can access; specific goals for the child; and the appropriate amount of vision-related instruction that enables the child to meet his goals. The recommendations will be recorded at a formal meeting known as the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.
Of course, the results of the assessments will evolve over time. Your child is entitled to a full evaluation every three years at minimum.