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TSBVI at sunset


by Jerry Wells, Manager of Public Information, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

With all the activity of wrapping up the school year, preparing for summer, and tracking federal and state activities, it's been hard to carve out enough time for other big events coming up. Did you know that the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) and other health and human service agencies are going through the Sunset process in the next legislative session? Did you know that as parents and professionals of children with disabilities you can play an important role in the process? If you are left wondering by these questions, read on.

What is Sunset?

Sunset is a periodic review of state agencies, boards, and commissions that was initiated back in 1974 and enacted into law in 1977. Sunset's primary purpose is to determine if state agencies still have a purpose unique enough to deserve to stay in business. If it is determined at the conclusion of the Sunset process that an agency no longer meets the needs of Texans, the sun "sets" on it and it will cease to exist - hence the name "Sunset."

When is an agency scheduled for Sunset Review?

Most agencies are scheduled for review every twelve years. In 1999, twenty-five agencies are undergoing review. Among these are all the health and human service agencies:

  • Texas Department on Aging
  • Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)
  • Texas Cancer Council
  • Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention
  • Children's Trust Fund of Texas Council
  • Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities
  • Texas Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission
  • Texas Board and Department of Health
  • Texas Department of Human Services
  • Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation
  • Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
  • Texas Rehabilitation Commission
  • Center for Rural Health Initiatives

Who controls the process?

The Sunset review process is under direction of the Sunset Advisory Commission. This commission is made up of elected officials and two public members. A listing of the members, their addresses, and the portions of the state they represent can be received by contacting the Sunset Commission  at 1 (512) 463-1296. The TTY number is (800) 735-2989.

You may also receive this information from any TCB office or through the TCB Public Information Office in braille, large print and regular print.

What is the Sunset review process?

In formulating their recommendations, the Sunset staff gathers information from a broad range of sources. Each agency submits a Self-Evaluation Report (SER). The agency's SER identifies problems, opportunities and issues that the agency feels should be considered in the Sunset review. The Sunset staff then receives an overview of the agency's activities and programs from agency staff. After the overview, the Sunset Advisory Commission will send out letters to interested groups and individuals asking for comments. Visits will be made to selected agency offices, service providers, contractors, consumer groups, and others around the state who are interested in the agency. Once the evaluation phase of the review is completed, the Sunset staff publishes a report containing staff recommendations. The staff report is presented to the Sunset Advisory Commission at one of its public hearings. This allows for public input into the Sunset review process and begins the Sunset Commission's consideration of the potential changes to recommend to the Legislature in the form of Sunset legislation.

Where can I get more information about the Sunset Process?

You can contact the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission by telephone at 1(800) 735-2989 or access information from their Internet site at <www.sunset.state.tx.us>. You can call TCB's toll-free line 1(800) 252-5204 or send an email to TCB's Public Information Office at .

How do I find out what the most important issues are for a specific agency?

Most agencies have materials available. For example, TCB has put together a "TCB Issues" document that is available in the Commission's local offices, or you can request a copy via TCB's toll-free number or email listed in the previous paragraph. You may also contact organizations such as the Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT) and Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT). AVIT may be reached by phone at 1(800) 394-0666 and DBMAT may be reached at (972) 287-1904.

How can I get involved?

You can contact a member of the Sunset Commission, especially one that represents your area of the state. You can review Sunset documents. They are made available to the public on a regular basis to keep the public informed on the progress of the review. The Sunset staff seeks input during the review at which time interested persons and organizations may voice their concerns about an agency. The Sunset Commission holds public hearings on each agency under review. These hearings offer the public an opportunity to testify on the agency and related recommendations. Generally, if an agency is to be continued, a bill must be passed by the Legislature. The public can participate in the same way as with any other piece of legislation.

Many of the issues being considered during the Sunset review may have a direct effect on services to children with disabilities. If you have concerns about the sun setting on a program or activities from which your child has benefitted, stay in Sunset's glow by being an informed parent!

from Summer 1998 issue

from the Winter 97 issue

by Kate Moss, Family Training Specialist, TSBVI Deafblind Outreach

Families often ask for help in preparing for their child’s Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting. They are not sure about their rights in the development of the Individual Educational Plan or feel unprepared to participate fully in the process. Parents need to remember the development of the plan as outlined by State Board of Education rules follows a step-by-step process. It is important to understand that process to be sure your child’s IEP is developed correctly.

The best way to understand the process and the rights of the parents and student in this process is to review the booklet Special Education Rights and Responsibilities: A Parent Manual published by Advocacy, Inc. This booklet is currently being updated and will be ready for distribution at the end of January. You may order it by calling any of the regional Advocacy, Inc. offices. These numbers are listed below:

Austin - (800) 252-9108 or (512) 454-4816
Pharr - (800) 880-8401 or (210) 783-8400
Houston - (800) 880-0821 or (713) 974-7691
Dallas - (800) 880-2884 or (214) 630-0916
Lubbock - (800) 880-4456 or (806) 765-7794

The booklet Special Education: Parent and Student Rights published by Texas Education Agency, which parents received in previous years, is no longer being used. Your school should, however, provide you with a copy of Explanation of Procedural Safeguards before your ARD. If you are needing more detailed information about your rights, I would encourage you to contact Advocacy, Inc. for their manual.

Agencies and organizations such as Partners Resource Network (P.A.T.H.) and Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) can also help you if you have questions about your rights or the rights of your child in special education. They may also be available to attend the ARD meeting with you if you provide them with enough notice. State and local parent support groups are additional resources. TSBVI Outreach Family Support Specialists are available to assist parents of children with visual impairments who have questions or need support in preparing for the ARD meeting. Often times another parent in your school’s special education program can be a resource to you.

THE ARD COMMITTEE

The ARD Committee is made up of at least the following individuals for a child with a visual impairment:

  • A representative of the public agency, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, special education.
  • The child's teacher.
  • One or both of the child's parents (or guardian or surrogate parent).
  • The child, if appropriate.
  • Other individuals at the discretion of the agency or the parents. (CFR§300.44)
  • A teacher of the visually impaired.

(SBOE§89.1050(c))

If the child is deafblind, this group would also include a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. (SBOE§89.1050(c)) Without these people present, the ARD should not take place. Sometimes one person may wear more than one hat, so you may have to ask who is serving each of these roles. As a parent you may invite someone to attend the ARD with you as a support or as someone who has worked with your child or has valuable knowledge about your child.

SCHEDULING THE MEETING

Parents should receive written notice about the ARD meeting early enough to ensure they may attend (typically five school days in advance). This notice should tell you the purpose of the meeting (e.g., to develop the IEP, to determine placement, etc.), the time and place of the meeting, and who will be in attendance. If you want to attend, but cannot on the date or at the time proposed, the school should work with you to reschedule this meeting. You may also ask to participate in the meeting by conference call or through some other method. (CFR§300.45)

An interpreter should be provided (e.g., sign, Spanish, etc.) if you need one to be able to participate fully in the meeting. (CFR§300.45) This should be at no cost to you. However, you must be responsible for informing the school of this need prior to the day of the meeting so they will have time to arrange for the interpreter to be available. I would recommend two or three days in advance at a minimum.

DEVELOPING THE IEP

Assessment/Evaluation

Assessment or evaluation is the foundation of any child's educational programming and should be the basis for all of the decisions that are made about the child's education. For this reason, an annual ARD meeting will generally begin with a review of the assessment. Assessment or evaluation means "procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services the child needs." (CFR 300.500 (b))

Assessment may include standardized tests, observations, information from you, and samples of the students work. A child should be evaluated in all areas related to the suspected disability. This may include evaluation in the following areas, if they are appropriate: health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication, and motor abilities.

The following guidelines are provided regarding evaluation procedures and/or materials:

  • Tests are provided in the child's native language or other mode of communication unless that is not possible;
  • Tests are validated for the specific purpose that they are being used and administered by a trained person according to instructions provided.
  • Tests are tailored to assess specific areas of educational need.
  • (Tests given to children with sensory impairments) must be selected so they reflect the child's aptitude or achievement level and not just his sensory impairment or manual/speaking skills unless that is what the test is trying to assess.
  • No single test is used as the sole criteria for determining an appropriate educational program for a child.
  • Tests are carried out by a multidisciplinary team which includes at least one teacher or other specialist with knowledge in the area of suspected disability.
  • Testing is done in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status. (CFR §300.532)

For children with visual impairment evaluation would include: an ophthalmological exam, a functional vision evaluation, and a learning media assessment. If the child has a hearing impairment this would include: an otological and audiological examination, and a communication assessment. These tests must be completed by a qualified person (e.g., the vision teacher, a speech pathologist, audiologist, etc.). (SBOE§89.140 (d) & (l)) If a vision or hearing impairment is found, other tests which could be impacted by a vision or hearing loss should be appropriately adapted or chosen. This information must be updated every three years, but may be updated more often if necessary.

Additional assessment is done to determine what needs to be done educationally for the child. This will include his/her strengths and weaknesses in the areas of academic or developmental skills, physical skills, behavioral skills, prevocational or vocational skills. Adaptations/modifications of instructional content, settings, methods, or materials which are required by the student to achieve and maintain satisfactory progress are noted here. This also determines which of these adaptations/modifications can only be provided through special education services. (Advocacy, 1994)

If you disagree with the assessment (in part or in whole) you may ask for an independent educational evaluation. This means the testing is done by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school. The cost of this evaluation must be paid by the school unless the school requests a hearing to show their assessment was appropriate. If their assessment is determined to be appropriate, the school is not responsible to pay for a new assessment. If you choose to pay for additional assessment, that assessment information may be considered by the ARD committee when making decisions. If you decide to have an independent assessment done, you need to clarify who will be paying for that assessment.

It is helpful to summarize your child's present level of performance based on the assessment information from all the various assessment sources. An assessment summary includes information on the child's particular disabilities, his areas of strength, and helps you understand his educational needs in the context of his family and peers. (Hudson, et al, 1992) It may be helpful to develop a list of what you see as your child's strengths, greatest areas of needs, preferred activities, and activities that his/her typical peers might choose. When you sit down to write goals and objectives with your ARD team, this information can be very useful.

Assistive technology

Children with disabilities may need assistive technology services to help them meet their educational goals. Assistive technology is more than computers, although many children will benefit from computers. It would include switches, CCTV, braille devices, wheelchairs, etc. Many schools and all Regional Education Service Centers have assistive technology teams that evaluate the child's need, make recommendations about technology, and provide ongoing training and support to the child, the instructional staff, and the family (if needed).

Assistive technology services include help in a number of areas. Federal Regulations define these services in the following way:

(a) the evaluation of the needs of a child with disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment;

(b) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;

(c) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, retaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;

(d) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;

(e) training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child's family; and

(f) training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of children with disabilities. (CFR § 300.6)

Writing the goals and objectives

Your child's educational needs are identified during the assessment/ evaluation process. The goals, objectives and the related services your child receives should address these identified needs. Suggested goals and objectives may be prepared before the ARD meeting; however, the whole ARD team is responsible for finalizing these together at the actual meeting. Never feel obligated to agree to goals and objectives that you as a parent have not been involved in developing.

An annual goal can be defined as a broad statement of what the ARD team thinks is reasonable for your child to learn within a school year based on what assessment information indicates he or she can do currently.

Some indication of how success will be measured and how the child will be taught should be included in a goal. For children with deafblindness or multiple disabilities, a curriculum or an assessment tool (such as the Brigance) may not be a meaningful measure to reference. It is better to tie the completion of the annual goal to the success measured in the objectives as the example below provides.

"Bobby will be an active participant in a communicative exchange with peers and adults as indicated by the completion of the objectives listed below..."

Those children with fewer disabilities may follow a regular school curriculum with some modifications and have goals and objectives written only in the area of vision and/or orientation and mobility.

Objectives are the short, measurable steps the child will take to move from where he is currently performing toward the completion of the annual goal. These should be active and not passive, that is they should not describe what will be done to the child (e.g., be positioned in a standing frame), but rather what the child will do. Using the example above as the annual goal in the area of communication, the objectives for the goal might be as follows:

  1. During familiar routines and activities, Bobby will increase the number of different signals he initiates with staff and peers from 5 to 10 signals to request continuation of an activity.
  2. When given an object symbol representing a familiar routine or activity, Bobby will use his vision to travel independently to the area of the room where this activity occurs 3 out of 4 times.
  3. During familiar or unfamiliar activities, Bobby will vocalize to get the attention of an adult or peer involved with him in the activity when he needs assistance 100% of the time.

Specific skills (e.g., using vision to travel, using signals to communicate, vocalizing to get attention) are typically worked on through the objectives and describe what the child will do. The activities your child participates in during the day (e.g., routines, play centers, a science experiment) provide opportunities for your child to work on these goals and objectives. They also provide opportunities for staff to evaluate his/her progress on goals and objectives.

It is not unusual for children with deafblindness or multiple disabilities to occasionally have the same annual goal for more than one year. Children who only have visual impairments typically progress more rapidly. However, if you see the same objectives year after year for any child, be alarmed. If a child is not progressing with his objectives it is because: (1) the objectives are not appropriate and likely too difficult for him/her to complete; (2) the objectives are not being taught in a way that proves meaningful to him/her; or (3) the objectives are not the focus of instruction as they should be.

There should also be some indication how each of the objectives will be evaluated. Be concerned if assessment instruments (e.g., Brigance, FSSI, etc.) are listed as the method of evaluation for your child's specific goals and objectives. Those types of instruments assess the child's level of performance in certain developmental areas and not his level of success in completing an objective. Periodic progress reports should address the child's specific individual objectives.

A better evaluation method is to collect data on the individual objectives contained in his IEP. The child's progress with his objectives is sampled in a number of different activities at frequent intervals and averaged out for a regular reporting period. In the first objective we used as an example, the first time data was taken Bobby used 6 different signals throughout the day in his routines. The next time he used 4 signals and 6 the third time. This averages out to 5 different signals used in routines during that reporting period. During the next reporting period his average was 8. He made some progress, but the objective was not completed. During the next period his average increased to 10. At that point the objective could be considered completed as the objective had been written. A new objective might be added or the level of proficiency increased (e.g. to 15 signals).

Make sure your ARD team discusses how progress will be documented. You should also be clear about who will be responsible for the completion of each goal and objective, and how frequently you will be updated on this progress.

Related services

Related services means the developmental, corrective and support services your child needs to benefit from his education. These services include: audiological services, counseling with students or families, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, medical or psychological services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, recreational services, rehabilitative services, school health services, speech and language services, special transportation, social work services, orientation and mobility, and interpreting services for students who are deaf. (CFR§300.16 and SBOE§89.1060)

These services should be determined based on your child's educational need. For example, if a school had a policy which allowed physical therapy services only when cognitive skills are higher level than motor skills that would not be allowed. According to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) a state's education policy or guidelines can not categorically deny any related service which a child needs to benefit from public education. Services must be based on educational needs of the individual child.

Transportation services for your child should be provided at no cost to the parents for travel to, from and between schools if they are deemed necessary by your ARD committee. This can include reimbursing the parents for providing this transportation or contracting for transportation services, if the school can not provide the needed services. Advocacy, Inc. provides a detailed explanation of how transportation services should be provided in their handout titled "A Student's Right to Transportation". Should your child need specialized equipment (lifts, air conditioning, travel aide, etc.) that should also be provided. However, the need for these services must be determined by the ARD committee. (Advocacy, 1991)

Other related services such as physical therapy, orientation and mobility training, speech therapy, etc. may be provided in a number of ways. The staff person may work directly with your child, consult with the staff who will carry out the direct instruction, or some combination of the two. This is also true of services from your teacher of the visually impaired or teacher of deaf and hard of hearing although their work is not considered to be "related services".

Parents frequently have concerns about the consultative model of service delivery since they view it as less service to their child. In fact this may be the best model for children with multiple disabilities because these children need many opportunities to practice skills throughout the day. An hour or two of direct services alone may not provide the child with the opportunities for practice of the skills in functional activities. However, consultative services require a great deal of planning and coordination between the related service staff, VI and/or AI teacher, and the classroom staff. The PT, OT, VI teacher, etc., still have the responsibility for the completion of those specific goals and objectives. They need to assure that documentation is done. They need to oversee and train the classroom staff in carrying out activities that they have helped design. Consultation should not mean "less service".

It is also important to note in the IEP document the dates for the initiation and duration of related services. Before you sign the IEP be sure that information is clearly indicated on the document.

Placement

Do not be mislead into believing that because your child has visual impairments or deafblindness that placement options are restricted. The law directs that placement should be in the least restrictive environment. It is up to the ARD committee to determine what that environment would look like for that individual child based on the assessment information and the goals and objectives that have been developed. In other words, legally there should not be "mentally retarded classrooms" for the students with mental retardation or "visually impaired campuses" where all children with vision problems must be placed.

You should start by considering where your child would attend school if he/she had no disabilities and work from there. The law provides for a range of placement options, and where your child is placed should be based upon his/her individual needs. Remember, placement should not be discussed until you have reviewed the assessment and developed the goals and objectives. Placement does not come first in the process. (CFR§300.522)

EXTENDED YEAR SERVICES

Extended year services (EYS) provide individualized instruction that extends beyond the regular school year to students eligible for special education. The ARD committee decides to provide EYS services if: (1) the student will loose critical skills that can not be regained within 8 weeks of the start of school, (2) be placed in a more restrictive environment, (3) become significantly less self-sufficient in his daily living skills, or (4) loose access to an independent living environment, job training or employment option without EYS services. Priority for EYS services is to be given to the most severely disabled students in the district. (Advocacy, 1994)

It is important for parents to know that EYS and summer school are two very different things. Summer school is an enrichment program. Summer school does not have to take into consideration your child's special needs. EYS is meant to be a continuous structured program based on your child's unique individual needs. Before you sign the ARD document, be sure you are agreeing to EYS services (if that is deemed appropriate) as opposed to summer school service. (Advocacy, 1994)

Your ARD meeting notice should tell you that EYS will be discussed. You also have the right to request an ARD to discuss EYS services if your school district does not suggest this is needed. EYS service determination must be based on progress reports, observations by parents and staff, and/or test results. This makes documentation throughout the regular school year critical. Review progress reports and other documentation to determine if your child lost skills when regular programming stopped for an extended period of time and the time needed for him to recoup those skills after he returned.

If you are refused EYS services, be sure to have the ARD committee document in the IEP notes why EYS services were refused and indicate upon what they based that decision. Lack of school district funds is not sufficient justification to deny EYS services.

INDIVIDUAL TRANSITION PLAN

Students must have an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) developed by the time they are 16 years old if they are in special education. This document is meant to be a plan to assist the young adult in making a smooth transition from his/her school-life to adult-life in the community. This plan should be developed and/or updated prior to the development of the annual IEP. The reason for this is to insure that the goals of transition are addressed in the programming that is provided for the young adult. The ITP may be developed earlier than 16 years of age, especially for children with multiple disabilities who may require more time to achieve skills and find services. For more detailed information about the ITP, please contact David Wiley at TSBVI Deafblind Outreach (512)206-9219.

REFUSAL OF SERVICES

Should your school refuse to provide services that you feel are necessary, they should document that refusal and explain why. They should also note other options that were considered to address the need that has been identified. Again the refusal of services should be based on information provided through assessment.

SIGNING THE AGREEMENT

Before you sign the agreement, make sure you read it carefully. Use your pre-ARD notes to determine if your key points were included. Are the goals and objectives written clearly and do they indicate who will be responsible for each of them? Are modifications and adaptations necessary for your child's instruction specifically listed? Are all related services listed? Make sure the IEP specifically states the amount and frequency of the related services, how the related service will be delivered (direct consultation to the child or consulting with the teacher or a combination of both methods), and when services will begin and end.

Be sure to review supplemental documents such as behavior management plans, vision supplement, etc. Do not feel pressured into signing the document until you are comfortable with it. If your spouse was not able to attend the ARD, you might want to adjourn the ARD and reconvene after he or she has had time to review the document, too. If the ARD bogs down and no agreements can be reached, you should feel comfortable in calling for an adjournment. The committee must then reconvene within ten school days.

If you disagree with the decision of the committee you do have a grievance process. Contact TEA or Advocacy, Inc. if you have questions about that process.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO BEFORE THE ARD

Review assessment information

Decisions of the ARD committee in planning for your child's education are based on assessment information that has been collected. You have a right to see all of the assessment information prior to your ARD meeting. I would encourage you to ask to see or have copies made of all assessments before the meeting. You may also want to schedule an informal pre-ARD with the teacher and some of the assessment staff to have time to review the information with them.

Write down questions you have about the assessment. If there is information you do not understand, ask for an explanation from your school or the individual who performed the assessment. Make sure that assessment gives you information about your child's strengths as well as areas of need. Programming should build on his strengths while addressing areas of delay.

You may also contribute information about your child during the assessment discussion. You know more about your child than anyone else. Come to the meeting prepared to share your observations about your child's strengths and his educational needs. Sharing anecdotal logs and home videos are two ways to offer information about how your child functions in his most familiar surroundings.

Setting priorities for goals & objectives

Family members can contribute significantly to identifying and prioritizing their child's annual goals. You can do this by thinking of the activities you would like to see your child be able to participate in more fully. You may want to get input from your child's brothers and sisters and/or his friends or peers. Begin to prioritize these activities by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Will he need to be able to do this or part of this as an adult?

2. If he is more independent in this activity will it be helpful to you as a family?

3. Do his peers or siblings without disabilities take part in this activity typically?

4. Is this an activity he will enjoy?

5. Will he use the skills from this activity immediately?

6. Does this activity occur in a variety of environments?

7. Does this activity include his peers?

Give one point for each "yes" answer you give related to a particular activity. For example, if the activity were preparing a sandwich, you might answer "yes" to questions 1, 2, and 5. If the activity were dressing himself, you might answer "yes" to questions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. Dressing himself seems to be more of a priority right now than preparing a sandwich.

When you prioritize the activities, select 3 or 4 that are most important to you. Think about how your child currently performs these activities. At what point in the activity is he unable to do the activity as you would. For example, at dinner your child is able to locate his food, pick up some food items with his fingers, place them in his mouth, chew, and swallow his food. He is unable to grasp eating utensils to scoop food. In another activity where a joy stick is used to play slot cars with his brother and his friends, he can follow the movement of the cars and take turns with others, but he can't grasp the switch independently to start and stop the cars.

In both of the activities above the child would be more independent if he could control his grasp. A skill identified in these activities is grasping objects. By looking at concerns common to activities, you can begin to identify basic skills that need to be developed.

For children who do not have multiple disabilities or who are able to complete a typical curriculum, you may want to look at the course work that is difficult for them. Could they access their learning environment better if they knew how to use adaptive technology or if they had all of their materials in large print? Could they participate in sports if they had some individual support or special equipment? Could they do math better if they learned Nemeth code?

Contact your child's teacher to set up a pre-ARD meeting so you can share the priority activities and basic skills you feel are important for your child to focus on during the coming school year. After reviewing the assessment information from the school and from home ask for help in developing the annual goals and objectives. Start well in advance of your ARD date so both you and the educational staff are able to discuss differences of opinion and gather additional information that may be needed during the actual ARD meeting.

Thinking about related services

Before your ARD, list the types of related services you feel your child will need and why; how you think the services need to be delivered (such as consultation to the teacher, direct instruction by a specialist); and how frequently or during what period of time the services should be provided. Your ARD committee should discuss related service needs and make decisions about what is required.

Investigating placement options

When considering placement, there are many things to consider---interaction with nondisabled peers, appropriate programming, transportation, etc. Decide how you would like to see your child participate with peers who are not disabled. Consider the benefits of being in a neighborhood school with children who might live nearby and could visit after school hours. Where can those kinds of interactions best occur?

You must also evaluate programming. Even though specialized programs are often at a segregated site, is that where the most appropriate programming can occur? There is no "one answer" to placement for children with visual impairments or deafblindness. Programming can be provided in a regular classroom, resource room, self-contained special education class, or some combination of these instructional arrangements. For some children at specific times a residential program such as Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired or Texas School for the Deaf may be the best placement option. The classroom placement should be as individualized as the child's goals and objectives.

You may want to visit a variety of classrooms and programs before the ARD. These might include your neighborhood schools, specialized programs, or any other educational option available to children who are the same age as your child.

FIND HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT

Do not be reluctant to ask for help from your school, TEA, Advocacy, or other resources. Your child's education is critical to the quality of his whole life. There are many people who are available to help you if you have enough lead time; so get going on your ARD preparations right away. Your participation in your child's ARD meeting is critical. Be prepared; your child's education is too important.

REFERENCES

A student's right to transportation. Advocacy, Inc., 1991

Programming during the summer months. Advocacy, Inc., 1992.

Rules and Regulations for Providing Special Education Services, Texas Education Agency, 1996.

Special Education Rights and Responsibilities: A Parent Manual, Advocacy, Inc., 1994.

Developing programs for students with severe handicaps using basic skills in the context of age-appropriate priority activities (draft copy), Hudson, Melissa and Leatherby, Jennifer, 1992.

RESOURCES

Communication: The Key to Building Parent/Professional Partnerships, Partners Resource Network.

Educational Rights And Responsibilities Under P.L. 94-142, Partners Resource Network.

Filing a TEA complaint. Advocacy, Inc., 1991

How to request an appeal hearing for an OBRA/PASARR determination. Advocacy, Inc., 1992

How to understand actions your school is proposing (or refusing). Advocacy, Inc., 1991.

Individual transition plan - Senate Bill 417: It's the law, but what is it about? David Wiley, author. Published in P.S. News!!!, Vol. III, No. 3, April, 1990.

It starts with a dream: making transition work for your child. . Wiley, D.author. Published in P.S. News!!!, Vol. IV, No. 4, 1992.

Modification and Support Services in the Classroom, Partners Resource Network.

Parent Manual On Education Services Under IDEA (also available in Spanish), Partners Resource Network.

Setting Priorities: Developing Goals; Writing Objectives, Partners Resource Network.

Transdisciplinary Teaming. Smith, M. and Moss, K. authors. Published in P.S. NEWS!!!, January, 1994, Vol. V, No. 4.

Understanding the special education process. Advocacy, Inc., 1991.

Editor's Note: Articles published by Partners Resource Network are available by contacting them at (800) 866-4726 or (409) 898-4684. Articles by David Wiley available by contacting TSBVI Outreach at (512) 206-9219. Contact Advocacy, Inc. at the numbers listed at the beginning of the article for copies of their documents.


by Robbie Blaha, Education Specialist and Kate Moss, Family Training Specialist - Texas Deaf-Blind Outreach

Students with deaf-blindness frequently require modifications regarding the delivery of instructional services. Without appropriate modifications, the child with deaf-blindness may be unable to access information from the instructional environment. These modifications are generated through the assessment process and are reflected in the reports submitted to the ARD committee. In a number of school districts around the state, the modification sheet is being used to summarize and document some of these specific modifications. We have developed a modification sheet which lists typical modifications for the student with deaf-blindness. We will be sharing this information with school sites around the state during the next year. We hope to get feedback on the effectiveness of its design and its value in facilitating better information about the student's need for the staff working with him/her.

The design of this form is based on the sample modification form developed by Texas Education Agency. Listing information on a single form serves a number of purposes:

  • It compiles and highlights sensory modifications that have been recommended in a variety of reports (e.g. the functional vision evaluation, the audiological, the technology assessment, the communication assessment, and the learning medium assessment). This is especially critical when various recommendations impact each other. For example, the speech pathologist recommends the child see the speaker's face to support speechreading, but the vision report indicates the child can not distinguish facial features at a distance greater than 12 inches.
  • It presents modifications for deaf-blindness which are not typically considered in other reports (e.g. tactile signing).
  • It helps eliminate the recurring problem of "I thought it was somewhere in the ARD notes" or "Since we did that last year, I just assumed they would continue it."

Many of the modifications we have included on the sheet are unique to deaf-blindness. Some of the modifications may be unfamiliar to staff who are not trained in the area of deaf-blindness. Modifications for students with deaf-blindness are not typically covered in preservice programs which train teachers of the visually impaired or teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing. The need for particular modifications is based upon a number of factors which include etiology, age of onset of the disabilities, degree and type of vision and hearing impairments, the presence of other disabling conditions, and most importantly the combined effects of the vision and hearing loss.

The modification sheet proposed by TEA has five sections and list specific modifications. The five sections included are: alter assignments, adapt instruction, adapt materials, manage behavior, and required equipment/assistive technology. Although many of the modifications listed might be needed for a student with deaf-blindness, many typical modifications for this population are not listed. Using these headings, we have included a list of modifications common to deaf-blindness. A sample form will be available soon. The information that follows gives more information about each of these modifications and why they might be needed.

Section 1 - ALTER ASSIGNMENTS

This first section of our form remains the same as the TEA form and does not require explanation. The modifications included under this section include:

  • Reduced assignments
  • Taped assignments
  • Extra time for completing assignments
  • Opportunity to respond orally
  • Emphasis on major points
  • Task analysis of assignments
  • Special projects in lieu of assignments

These modifications may be necessary modifications for some students with deaf-blindness.

Section 2 - ADAPT INSTRUCTION

Providing a high degree of consistency in presenting new information. A child with deaf-blindness receives fragments of any experience because their eyes and ears omit or distort incoming information. When presenting new information staff must provide information in a consistent way so that the child can more readily grasp the information being taught. For example, when learning new signs tactually or through coactive signing, some children are confused by the variation in the way three different staff members form the same sign. The child may take longer to learn the sign or be unable to learn signs at all because of this variation. The number of people using new vocabulary with the child needs to be limited at first to insure a greater degree of consistency.

Providing experience-based instruction to supplement or introduce group instruction. Children with deaf-blindness have difficulty learning through observation or independent exploration. This results in an experiential and conceptual base that differs significantly from children with any other disability (ies). They must be given the opportunity to recoup information which has been consistently denied to them by their sensory losses. Current thought suggests that this type of educational approach is beneficial to all learners. However, for the child with deaf-blindness this may be the only approach that proves effective.

Providing additional time to locate & attend to referent. Because of their hearing loss a child with deaf-blindness may have difficulty localizing sounds, identifying speakers, etc. The same child's visual impairment creates difficulty when focusing with a change in distance, lighting, or background. If his visual fields are constricted or broken, locating something visually becomes much more complicated. The child with deaf-blindness must have extra time to shift his gaze from the teacher who asks the questions to the student who responds. In other instances, the student may need to have additional time to locate the object or situation under discussion so they can understand the comments.

Providing frequent comprehension checks. You cannot assume the child with deaf-blindness is getting the information at the same rate and in the same manner as the other students. It is critical to check frequently during instruction for comprehension.

Providing one-on-one instructional support. Some children with deaf-blindness have a current need for one-on-one support for all or part of the day in order to benefit from instruction. This may be necessary because the child's vision or hearing limits his ability to access the learning environment independently. This need may exist in one situation, but not in others. For example, some children with deaf-blindness only need one-on-one support in group situations to be able to keep track of the discussion or demonstration, to participate in a hands-on experience, or to interact with their peers. Depending on the child and the activity, a one-to-one ratio can be provided by a variety of people (e.g., peer, teacher of the visually impaired, the third-grade teacher).

Providing intervenor aide. An intervenor is an instructional aide who has specific training in deaf-blindness. Her training would include the information needed to implement the IEP objectives and individual modifications for a child with deaf-blindness. Intervenors are specifically designated to work with a child with deaf-blindness for all or part of the instructional day based on the current need of the child.

Providing an interpreter and/or modifying interpreting services: individual, small group, platform, visual description, and/or oral interpretation. Depending on the degree and type of visual and hearing impairment, the specific situation, and the communication form used by the child, different types of interpreting services may be required. For example, a student with slightly restricted fields and good acuities may be able to use a platform interpreter, or he may require small group interpretation. A child with severely restricted fields and 20/200 vision may need individual interpreting services, visual descriptions, and in some situations sighted guide assistance. A child who relies on speechreading may require the support of an oral interpreter. It is important to consider the type of interpreter support needed to accommodate the child's visual abilities and communication form.

Providing interpreter-tutor aide. An interpreter-tutor differs from an interpreter in that they not only provide direct interpretation, but also provides additional explanation and instruction when it is needed. Some students with needs in developing language, vocabulary and concepts may require this type of support.

Adapting manual communication form by: substituting fingerspelling or alternative signs, tactual signs, (hand) tracking, or coactive signing. There are a variety of manual communication forms used by students with deaf-blindness. Adaptations to these communicative forms are based on the child's cognitive, motoric and visual abilities. Some of these adaptations are specific to deaf-blindness:

  • tactual signs allows the person with deaf-blindness to receive information by placing his/her hands on the signer in order to read signs and fingerspelling by touch.
  • (hand)tracking occurs when the person with deaf-blindness places his/her hand(s) on the wrist area of the signer. This helps him direct his gaze and may provide additional information about a specific sign.
  • coactive signing occurs when the teacher takes the student's hand(s) and helps the student form the sign correctly.

Presenting signs and fingerspelling in appropriate field as noted in functional vision evaluation. Many children have visual impairments which may cause some type of field loss. It is critical to present visual information to them in a location where they can see it most readily. Some signs may need to be adapted to a smaller sign space. This technique could be used in conjunction with the adaptations to manual forms mentioned above. The functional vision evaluation should note any field losses that the child is experiencing.

Altering signing distance as noted in functional vision evaluation. When a child has an acuity problem or a field loss, signing distance is affected. Some children may require signs to be presented within 12 inches of their face to be able to see them. Other children who have restricted field loss with no acuity problems may occasionally need to have the signer at a greater distance from them than may be typical in some situations in order to get the hand and body movements inside of their field of vision.

Varying rate of signing and fingerspelling when presenting complex or novel information. Visual impairments may cause problems in receptive communication, especially if the information is new to the child. The child may not be able to keep up with the rate of signing or fingerspelling used for other students in their class.

Providing specific visual adaptations to instructional environment. The functional vision evaluation, the eye exam, the clinical low vision assessment and the learning media assessment contain pertinent recommendations which should be highlighted on the modification sheet. These might include such things as: allowing child to use eccentric viewing positions, providing additional lighting, etc. (Some recommendations may also be reflected in Section 3 - Adapt Materials and Section 5 - Required Equipment/Assistive Technology.)

Providing specific auditory adaptations to instructional environment. The audiological, the communication assessment, and in some instances the technology evaluations may contain specific recommendations for adaptations and equipment needed by the child. These might include: assistive listening devices, preferential seating placement, reduction of ambient noise, notetaker, etc. (Some recommendations may also be reflected in Section 5 - Required Equipment/Assistive Technology.)

Adapting braille instruction to match child's English language skills. Some children with deaf-blindness are fluent in American Sign Language, which is a different language from English. Since braille instruction is based on materials that are in English, the staff need to be sure that the vocabulary and language which are used in instructing braille are appropriate for the student.

Section 3 - ADAPT MATERIALS

The sensory assessments suggest specific modifications to materials. Some examples are: enhance contrast, provide specific print size, use toys that produce low frequency sound, etc.

Section 4 - MANAGE BEHAVIOR

Providing supervision regarding the use & maintenance of assistive listening devices and optical aids. A common complaint from parents and teachers alike is that children with deaf-blindness are not using hearing aids and glasses that are recommended for them. Since these devices allow the child to access information, it is critical that someone is responsible for keeping these devices on the child as well as in good working order. It is also necessary that the child be taught to use the additional information they are receiving as a result of the devices.

Preparing the child prior to transition to new activity by: giving a clear ending to the current activity, giving a symbol representing the upcoming event, and/or discussing the upcoming event. Many children become upset when they transition from one activity to another, especially if they are engaged in a preferred activity. Using routines that are structured to give the child a clear signal for the end of one activity and the beginning of the next activity can be very helpful. Calendar systems often help in this effort. Many children only need some discussion of the activity that is coming up to ready them for the transition.

Reducing the effects of anxiety related to deaf-blindness by: limiting the number of people; providing a predictable environment; reducing performance demands; developing instruction around preferred activities; and/or providing choices in activities. Some children with deaf-blindness have difficulty feeling safe in a world that alternately "comes at you" or "disappears in thin air." Their communication skills may also make it difficult for them to express their feelings and desires readily to all the individuals they encounter. The items listed above may offset these problems.

In general, finding ways to make the environment more predictable can help reduce anxiety. It is also important that these children have some control in their lives.

Section 5 - REQUIRED EQUIPMENT / ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Children with deaf-blindness need to have access to a variety of adaptive/assistive devices. Many of these are listed below:

  • personal hearing aids and glasses
  • low vision devices such as CCTV, monoculars
  • easel, book stands
  • assistive listening device such as FM systems, vibrotactile aids, or auditory loops
  • alerting devices such as vibrating alarms
  • captioning for television and video materials
  • computer aided real time (CART)
  • lamps or spotlights on interpreter to help the child in visually accessing the information that is being signed
  • TDD/telebraille devices for making phone calls
  • calendar system for specific communication needs and structuring of the daily, weekly or monthly activities
  • relay services

You may need to reference other materials to help in determining the most appropriate modifications for the student in your classroom. Some of the materials that we feel would be helpful are listed below. You may also call with questions regarding modifications.

OTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES

Baker, Charlotte & Cokely, Dennis (1988). American Sign Language: a teacher's resource text on grammar and culture. Silver Springs, MD: T.J. Publishers.

Gustason, Gerilee & Zawolkow, Ester (1993). Signing Exact English. Los Alamitos, CA: Modern Signs Press, Inc.

Humphries, Tom, Padden, Carol, & O'Rourke, Terrence J. (1980). A Basic Course In American Sign Language. Silver springs, MD: T.J. Publishers.

Reed, Charlotte M., Delhome, Lorraine A., & Durlach, Nathaniel I. (1995). A study of tactual reception of sign language. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, Vol. 38, 477-489, April 1995.

Smith, Theresa (1992). Guidelines for working/playing with deaf-blind people. Monmouth, OR: D-B LINK.

Watkins, Susan & Clark, Thomas P. (1991). A coactive sign system for children who are dual sensory impaired. American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 136, No. 4, pages 321-324.

from Sumer 1997 issue

Speaking of legislators and legislation, I have recently discovered a great website to get information about the actions of the State Senate and House of Representatives. The site is called Texas Legislature Online and the address is http://www.legis.state.tx.us/ There is also a website for the National Legislature called Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet and its address is http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.html?62,15

from Fall 97 issue
by Mel Dugosh, Parent, Pipe Creek, Texas

In 1995 I attended a conference sponsored by C.A.M.P., Children's Association for Maximum Potential, and moderated by the editor of Exceptional Parents Magazine. The conference objective was to improve relationships between parents of children with significant disabilities and medical and educational professionals. After ten years of parenting one child, I admit that I had become very cynical that those relationships could do anything but worsen.

The workshop was dry and predictable with the professionals extolling their expertise and the parents participating little. Suddenly a male parent stood and said, "Hey, lets talk about what's really bothering me ... we can't even go to church as a family anymore ... our child isn't welcome there. When we find a church that wants all of us ... this is where we are going to go."

The meeting went haywire, with the parents all speaking at once ... out loud and amongst themselves, each of them sharing a story of exclusion at the hands of a church. I said nothing; this hardened parent had dissolved in tears, silently grieving the church I had lost. The church that had asked us to stand in the lobby during a song because our son was disruptive. The church that was not able to provide child care in the nursery because of his special needs. The church I took my son to for healing, and they "cast the devil out of him." This huge famous church that showcased its deaf ministry and occasionally proudly handed over its pulpit to an evangelist with cerebral palsy, had no room for our tiny lovable son, Chris, who was born with blindness and deafness but sees and feels what most of us cannot. Our son Chris, who without hands somehow manages to touch us with warmth each day.

It had been the ultimate rejection. The rejection that I had not allowed myself to even think about and it suddenly seemed that it was not that uncommon. For months after the meeting I wondered about other parents and their church experiences. Eventually, with the help of C.A.M.P. and their agency's commitment to the many aspects of the physical and psychological needs of both the child with disabilities and their entire family unit, I launched a very unscientific qualitative survey to discover if in fact other families with children like mine were finding a policy of exclusion in their community churches.

First Responses

The research indicates that when a child with significant disabilities is born into a family their first initial contacts for assistance are within their immediate family, the medical community, and their church community. These crucial "first responses" to what the family may perceive as a crisis situation, seem to set the tone for their interactions with government and community resources that will follow.

The historical legacy of placing persons with significant physical and mental disabilities in institutions or segregated in their homes may be a contributing factor to the hostile atmosphere that some of the survey respondants found. They initially sought comfort and guidance in their local church community and were met with blame, accusation and rejection.

Pressure for Compliance

In several denominations, instances were reported where new families having a child with physical disabilities and/or mental disabilities with no previous advocacy training or experience with community inclusion heard doctrines of "retribution" and felt pressure to "repent" and "seek a healing" for their child. A parent responded, "I somehow felt that I must apologize to the congregation because my child with mental disabilities and an ongoing chronic illness, did not have a complete recovery, or even close, as if my faith wasn't strong enough to receive a healing from God for my child."

Results reported from these types of incidences yielded - emotional distress, anger at God, withdrawal from church and community, and reluctance to discuss these happenings.

Denial

It is not uncommon for parents dealing with difficult circumstances to keep their thoughts and emotional pain to themselves. Not saying anything or saying very little protects them against vulnerability. A parent remembers, "My son's Down Syndrome was not obvious in his appearance for the first few months after his birth. Our church was so large that many people did not know that my husband and I were dealing with the initial pain and shock of the news ourselves. The problem was that I wanted to continue keeping his Down Syndrome a secret. I wanted everyone to think of me as a happy and fulfilled new Mom and not feel sorry for me. While I continued this `happy face,' inside I felt as though I was surrounded by a huge dark cloud of despair and it was many months before I was even ready to face the reality, or even admit to anyone that there was a problem."

Parents that are not openly expressive and are not exhibiting sadness in more obvious situations can also be perceived by those in the church community as having already successfully dealt with their circumstances. A parent expressed his thoughts in this way: "I was alone those first few days after our child with disabilities was born. Friends and relatives came to visit my wife in the hospital, they hugged, talked to her and cried with her. Our pastor and his wife came and spoke to my wife; but he did not speak to me."

Grief Process

People may have difficulty getting through the stages of grief because they are not aware of the nature of those stages. These natural stages may contribute to the church communities' inability to assess the situation and provide assistance. "After caring for my child with disabilities alone for many years I know that I need God's strength to continue. I also know that I need the help of our entire congregation. How do I tell them now, that I alone, am not equipped."

Anger

Vague and undefined anger is common. Parents may become easily upset and frustrated and have no focus for their anger. These feelings of isolation and anger can be devastating. One parent described her feelings as, "...intense humiliation, guilt, condemnation, hopelessness, confusion, fear, lack of purpose for living, deep depression and despair, distrust for those in the medical profession, abandonment, and betrayal by God."

Many people were not aware of how their beliefs about God could relate to the birth of their child with mental and physical disabilities. Struggling with an unshakable image of God from their own past while coping with an overwhelming situation can be especially difficult. Parents dealing with these intense emotional issues need a safe and secure environment within their church community to explore their anger and other emotions, especially the anger directed specifically at God.

Acceptance

When a family reaches the point in the grieving process, in which they are able to accept their circumstances, they begin a tentative move in a positive direction. When the family no longer sees their child's physical or mental limitations as a source of shame or as something they must overcome and can accept that it is okay to be a person with disabilities, this is the beginning of advocacy efforts on behalf of their child and other children with disabilities for inclusion in all aspects of community life. A parent explains, "Our family is currently looking around, again, for a church. It is so difficult for us to find one where we feel that we belong. Sometimes I go scope them out by myself on Sunday, just to see if the church has others with disabilities and how they treat them. I am no longer willing to allow my child to be hurt by an uneducated church."

Advocacy Efforts

Once a parent of a child with physical or mental disability becomes empowered to advocate for their child within their church community, humanity cries out for a new vision. Inclusion spreads throughout the community as a whole as shown in this example from a parent: "At one time we wondered how our new baby daughter would suffer from having a brother who, because of his disability, would restrict her life and embarrass her in front of her friends. Those nightmares of the past will never come true! I now speak to other parents, professionals, Chamber of Commerce, school boards, churches, organizations and public officials. I'm no longer ashamed, I have knowledge and confidence and I plan to continue my work in advocation for my son and others with disabilities."

Accessibility

If barriers of attitude, communication or architecture exist for anyone, the foundation of the House of God is weakened for all. Inclusion in the church community will become a reality when parents of children with disabilities and adults with disabilities determine that they deserve the opportunities to achieve whatever is possible despite the difficulties. "The church needs to provide the parishioners guidance on how to `include' children with disabilities with their dignity intact, in the church, as well as the community."

Americans with disabilities have the right to attend the church, synagogue, meetinghouse, mosque, or temple of their choice. However, this may mean negotiating stairs or narrow doorways, print media that is too small to read, inadequate sound systems, and bathrooms that are not accessible.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This sweeping civil rights law provided a national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications. A religious entity, however, is defined under the ADA as a "religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society." Using this interpretation, church congregations, camps, church offices, and other church facilities fall within this ADA definition.

Religious organizations or entities, including places of worship, are exempt for any Title III public accommodation requirements of the ADA. Even when a religious entity carries out activities that would otherwise make it a public accommodation (for example, a restaurant, a place of lodging, a theater, a library) the religious entity is entitled with the exemption from the ADA coverage. If a church entity operates a public nursing home, day school, child care facility, and summer camp, those operations, again, are not subject to the ADA's public accommodation requirements. This also applies to religious institutions led by lay boards. The test is whether the religious entity controls the public accommodation, not who receives the services. However, a church facility operating as a profit-making, noncharitable institution does not qualify for the religious exemption.

A church can provide a daycare and avoid these issues by choosing to lease the space to a nonreligious organization that will operate the public accommodation. The tenant them becomes responsible for compliance with the ADA, not the church leasing the facility.

If a church service organization operates with assistance of federal money, the shelter will be required to be accessible to people with disabilities under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities by entities receiving federal financial assistance.

The First Amendment provides, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The Supreme Court has interpreted these words to mean that government entities - federal, state and local - must avoid activities which advance or inhibit religion. Under the Supreme Court's Lemon test, named for the case in which it was adopted [Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S.602(1971)], the federal government may fund a religiously-affiliated program that 1) has a secular or civic purpose; 2) has a principle or primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and 3) avoids fostering an excessive government entanglement with religion. The broad latitude afforded by the Lemon test for federal funding of churches' nonsectarian social programs can allow for federal support for religiously affiliated programs in the areas of housing, child care, nutrition, health, inclusion, drug intervention and assistance for the poor.

Adults with Disabilities

An adult with mental disabilities expresses herself in this way: "Not only do people with physical disabilities get shunned, but people with [other] disabilities do as well. Many `Mega Churches' define your personal success by the job you hold or the social circles you fit into. Churches make a glaring and condescending spectacle of people who think differently than they. Many times it is assumed that we are stupid and are seldom called upon to fulfill meaningful roles in church life."

"In Austin, Texas, my former `mega church', was called upon to bake cookies for a Christmas party at the Austin State Hospital. They flatly refused. This church is approximately two blocks from the hospital and has had no known ministry to a `community' that were truly its `neighbors'. The good news is that the church recently issued an apology. They have become interested in the folks over at the hospital and have begun to minister to them and welcome them into the congregation."

Many parents of children with disabilities report that they converted to different denominations or left churches with policies of exclusion to join churches with visible adult congregants with disabilities that had already begun paving the way to inclusion in that church community.

Diversity

A parent with a child with mental disabilities describes his new church in this way, "Our church is represented by extremely diverse personalities and backgrounds. Yet we are united into a close knit group because of God's gifts of help and hospitalities. God has blessed our congregation with many that need special accommodations and He has given us the tenderness to understand and provide for these needs."

Looking past impairment to discover the unique gifts and potential of those who live with mental and physical disabilities is a celebration of life. This celebration, rather than the segregation of diversities, allows for the threads of interaction to become reinforced into the fabric that holds the church community together. Repeating and patterning these actions can serve as an example to the surrounding communities' increased awareness and acceptance of community inclusion.

The Full Circle

In many communities the church is among the few viable indigenous social organizations committed to fostering the development of individuals, families and the community as a whole. There are, in fact, church leaders with or without disabilities, who are creating new inclusive church communities across America. Some have taken forthright measures and thoughtfully improved their buildings and programs. In so doing, many people have come to recognize the gifts which persons with mental and physical disabilities bring into the church community. A parent describes the programs in her church community, "Our church now has a Ministry for Special Needs with a council for fourteen people. We have a director of programs which coordinates the Sunday School programs. There are two special classes for children and one for adults. As well as mainstreaming for those higher functioning individuals. There is an interpreter for individuals who are deaf at worship and in Sunday School. We have plans for programming during family night activities on Wednesday evening during the school year, and our future goals include respite services."

"We also have an outreach for residents of several group homes and institutions in the area. We have coordinated transportation with congregants who live nearby. We recently contracted with a nonprofit agency to provide after-school care for children with special needs of elementary school age, and are hoping that some of these children will bring their families and become a part of our growing ministry."

As social injustices, ignorance and apathy are replaced with increased sensitivity and warm acceptance, the church community will begin to fully appreciate the contributions that persons with mental and physical disabilities present. In addition, their virtues of courage, patience, perseverance, and compassion can serve as an inspiration to all those in the community.

Resources

National Organization on Disability
Religion and Disability Program
910 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20096
(202) 293-5960 - voice and (202) 293-5968 -TTY

National Catholic Office for Persons with Disability
P. O. Box 29113
Washington, DC 20017
(202) 529-2933 - voice/TTY

Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Liheyot Advisory Committee
838 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10021-7064
(212) 650-4075 - voice

Editor's Note: You may contact Mel at (210) 510-4495 or write to Rt. 1, Box 1416, Pipe Creek, TX 78063.

Summer 2000 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Terry Murphy, Executive Director, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

I've watched with interest over the years how words come in and out of vogue in the human services field. Some changes are easy to applaud, especially when the people most affected by the words seek and win the changes themselves. Because of the hard work by individuals and groups of Americans with varying disabilities, the term "handicapped" has given way to "disabled," and finally to "people with disabilities" in the Rehabilitation Act and other legislation during the last decade.

The latest target for change in this arena, however, does not have my support because the dissenting opinions of the individuals most affected by the proposal—people who are blind—have been ignored. The target I'm talking about is the goal by a few people and organizations to eliminate the word blind from the vocabulary of state legislatures and the U. S. Congress by calling for an end to its separate identity in laws and programs. Advocates for its elimination proffer their opinion that "people with disabilities" sufficiently says it all during human service funding and service debates. Recognition of the special needs of people who are blind is superfluous to the process.

Organizations of and for the blind have worked hard to educate legislators over the years to the unique barriers to employment and independent living posed by blindness because "existing services for people with disabilities" were not being made accessible to people who were blind. One important result of these education efforts is reflected in Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act. Entitled "Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind," Chapter 2 provides funds to states to provide independent living skills to older individuals who are blind for whom significant visual impairment makes competitive employment extremely difficult to attain but for whom independent living goals are feasible. These funds, meager as they are, were celebrated across the nation and are used in Texas to prevent individuals from prematurely being relegated to nursing homes or caretakers when advancing age results in a loss of vision. With specialized training in adjusting to blindness, the majority of these individuals can remain in their homes and continue to be self-sufficient.

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) hosted a meeting a few months ago to talk about the future of vocational rehabilitation and independent living services, not only in Texas, but also across the country. In the room, the combined experience in the field of blindness numbered well into the hundreds of years. My colleagues and I shared our experiences, reflecting on the latest Texas legislative session when the specialized services provided by the Commission were being reviewed by the Sunset staff. The Commission entered the Sunset process confident in its record and proud that Texas chose the right path long ago when it created an agency with the sole purpose of building an effective system of services for individuals who were blind, including children and teenagers, which is rare in other states.

It was inconceivable to most of us that anyone would want to dismantle one of the best agencies for the blind in the country. Other states had gone that path only to be met with diminishing returns on their investment in services. Unfortunately we were wrong. It soon became evident during the legislative session that individuals and groups calling for an end to separately funded programs for people who are blind in Washington are also active in Texas. Their supporters were primarily advocating for serving people with all types of disabilities out of one Texas agency without having a separate budget for serving people who are blind. One advocate for change said that it is not necessarily accurate that individuals who are blind need that exact allocation of money, adding that agencies will always find a way to spend what they are given. The alternative of combining all human services programs into one elephantine agency with one budget also received some support.

Those of us who have chosen to work in the field of blindness as long as I have are so convinced that the elimination of distinct, separate services and funding would be detrimental that we have renewed our commitment to stay active in the coming months and years in educating the public, legislators, and congressmen about blindness and its unique effects on a person's ability to live and work. I simply do not believe that specialized services for persons who are blind of the same or better quality will be available in any service system where they are the small minority voice among persons with disabilities. It takes someone specially trained in the effects of blindness to be an effective service provider, and my 28 years in the field have only solidified my resolve to fight for the right of Texans struggling for equal acceptance into the world of employment to have dedicated resources for appropriate training and qualified state personnel with which to partner. The old saying, "United, we stand; divided, we fall" has taken on a very personal meaning to me on this particular issue, because cooperation between consumers and organizations of and for people who are blind over these next few years is extremely important.

I'm often asked by parents of children who are blind, "How can I keep up with what's happening? How can I make sure that people trained in the complications of blindness continue to be available for my child now and when he's trying to go into the workforce?" As an individual, you can be extremely effective by sharing what you know to be facts about blindness with your community and state leaders. You can join one of the consumer groups or parent groups that brings together people with the same needs and quest for knowledge about state and national activities that may have an effect—good or bad—on services for people who are blind. Stay involved even when things appear to be going well. Apathy can kill an endangered program just as effectively as the lobbyists already at work.

Congressional activities are already in motion in preparation for the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act in 2003. At this time, the Act is still a separate entity within the broader Workforce Investment Act. Vocational rehabilitation programs are only "linked" to local workforce programs—a "cooperative" arrangement. This federal change in 1997 is somewhat similar to state changes in 1999 when the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) kept its separate identity but now operates under the broad authority of the Health and Human Services Commissioner.

Two forces are alive and well at the national level: A force that continues to want work done by rehabilitation agencies merged or transferred into local workforce programs, and a force that wants to eliminate the states' authority to have separate rehabilitation programs for people who are blind. Either action will potentially eliminate the word "blind" from employment and independent living programs.

Programs for people who are blind were born in an era when leaders recognized that blindness was taking a toll on independence and employment that only specialized services could alleviate. Blindness still takes its toll. However, we have risen from that small beginning where the vast majority of blind people were expected to work in sheltered environments to today's multifaceted program of services where people can choose to pursue a broad range of careers that fits their interests and capabilities.

The people who know best the struggles of finding their rightful place in society are those who are themselves blind. Organizations composed of blind people have fought a valiant fight to have specialized services and will continue to do so as long as service providers listen to them and adjust to identified needs. Organizations composed of parents of blind children, including parents whose children have other disabilities in combination with blindness, have fought a valiant fight to have brighter futures for their children. Many years ago, the Commission was sometimes the object of these fights, but we began to better listen and respond. My personal goal for the past ten years has been to create an atmosphere wherein we stand together rather than stand separately.

If you are blind, if you have a loved one who is blind, or if you merely believe that blindness should not keep someone from participating in society to the highest extent possible, then I invite you to stand with us as we continue our efforts to educate others about the need for specialized services.

Winter 2000 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Reprinted with permission. Parent Education Project of Wisconsin, Inc.
Information and Consulting on Special Education Issues
<http://members.aol.com/pepofwi>

Editors note: Anyone who has ever attended ARD/IEP meetings knows how stressful they can become. These meetings can quickly get out of control if you haven't done your homework. Even parents who are also in the field of special education, have noted that ARD/IEP meetings are very different when it is for their own child. These parents know their rights, the process, the "right way" to participate; but it can all go out the window with one comment about their child from a professional. Getting a handle on your emotions will make the negotiations more effective. One strategy I encourage parents to use is to schedule informal meetings with their child's teachers and therapists to discuss concerns and review any assessments BEFORE the ARD/IEP meeting. This allows all parties to know ahead of time any issues that need to be addressed. No one likes to be broad-sided. Besides, most of us need time to process and investigate options in order to have an appropriate response. Routine contact between school and home through communication notebooks, phone calls, videotapes, home visits, and classroom visits can prevent the buildup of misunderstandings. Frequent discussions between parents and staff clarifies expectations and takes the edge off the formality of the ARD/IEP meeting itself. The following article gives practical strategies for making your next ARD/IEP meeting successful instead of stressful.

BRING A BUDDY

A recent PEP-WI survey revealed that only about 18 percent of parents are bringing someone (friend, spouse, neighbor, relative, etc.) with them when they go to IEP meetings. From experience, we know that when the parent brings someone to the meeting who is knowledgeable about the child or who has special expertise, the tenor of the meeting becomes more mutually collaborative, more mutually respectful, and frequently more productive. Children's needs remain the focus; all members of the IEP team are more likely to work together to create solutions. You can improve the quality and effectiveness of your child's IEP Team meetings by bringing a buddy. Here are some ideas to help:

  • Pair up with another child in your child's special education program. You go to their meetings, they come to your meetings.
  • Make a friend at a parent support group (like CHADD, ARC, Family2Family, etc.). Agree to buddy-up at meetings. Better yet, attend a PEP-WI (Partners Resource Network) training or two together!
  • IEP Meetings must be scheduled at mutually agreeable times and locations. Recommend times and locations where you and your spouse or significant other can both attend. You have the right to a meeting at a mutually agreeable time and place.
  • If your child receives physical or occupational therapy or counseling outside of school, invite that service provider to attend the meeting. Use conference calling if needed.
  • Ask your child's aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent or other relative, who has a special understanding of your child, to attend with you.
  • Consider asking a sibling to attend. He or she "knows" your child in unique ways.
  • Invite last year's teacher, aide, or therapist to come.
  • Offer to share YOUR services going to someone else's meeting with them and have them come with YOU.

IF YOU THINK THE MEETING IS GOING TO BE STRESSFUL

If you think that your meeting with the IEP Team is going to be stressful, try these suggestions:

  • Start by talking about some areas you know you all will agree with. Find common ground. Example: I know you have found Jon's behavior difficult to control at times. We have had similar experiences at home.
  • Use AND instead of using the word BUT. "But" acts like an automatic switch inside listeners' minds. It "switches off" the first part of the sentence or message. Example: We need a plan to get my daughter's behavior under control AND we need to keep in mind that she also needs to experience academic success in the general education classroom.
  • Avoid using absolutes: "You always..., We never..."
  • Use positives to help move the conversation along. Example: "What if we tried...?" "Would you be willing to try this ?" "It sounds like it might be better if we..." "Have we thought about this?"
  • Allow your listeners to correct any possible misunderstandings you may have gotten. "Can you help me understand why you...?" "Tell me again why we are..." "Oh, okay, that clarifies that for me a lot".
  • Don't take a position. Deal with a need. Example: "My son needs to feel successful at school. How can we make that occur?"

Information from The Wisconsin Collaborator, PEP-WI, July 1999 published by Parent Education Project of Wisconsin, 2192 S. 60th St., West Allis, WI 53219-1568. Phone (414) 328-5520 and fax (414) 328-5530.

Fall 1999 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Phil Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

For the past two years, a group of writers has been working hard drafting a new publication called "Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Educational Service Guidelines". The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) is in charge of this project, which has been funded by the Hilton/Perkins Foundation. Dr. Gaylen Pugh was selected as Project Director, and has been very effective in keeping the writing of this document on track. I was privileged to be one of the writers.

I want to emphasize the potential impact of this publication. NASDSE membership is comprised of the special education leaders in each state. They have a tremendous influence on policy and practice regarding educational services for students in their respective states. More specifically, members of NASDSE have the capability of determining educational services for blind and visually impaired students. I also emphasize that we educators for blind and visually impaired students did not go to NASDSE to promote the writing of this publication. They came to us. I have to believe that the members of NASDSE recognize the need for new guidelines that will enable them to serve blind and visually impaired students more effectively.

What follows is a NASDSE news release announcing the new publication. It provides some detail about the content of "Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Educational Service Guidelines". If you do not receive a copy, please order one - you'll be glad you did.

It's Ready, It's Out There!

NASDE and Hilton/Perkins Publish the Blind Initiative Guidelines

In September, NASDSE and the Hilton/Perkins Program of the Perkins School for the Blind disseminated their educational service guidelines for students who are blind or visually impaired. The intention of this guidelines document is to provide assistance to state and local education agencies, service providers, and parents. The document describes essential program elements and features which must be considered when designing appropriate services for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those students with multiple disabilities. A full continuum of options is included.

The process for developing this guidelines document, as well as its format and design, was patterned after NASDSE's Deaf Initiative guidelines published in 1994. The Blind Initiative document is the collaborative effort of 13 national organizations that have special interest in the provision of services to visually impaired persons and their families. Representatives from the major national consumer, advocacy, and educational organizations comprised the writing team. A larger panel of content experts provided review and comment on draft chapters.

The document is organized into five chapters, a glossary, and extensive appendices. Chapter One presents the theoretical constructs on which the other chapters are based. It discusses what educators need to know about the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments. It outlines public policy and legislation that affect these students and their rights to full participant in the general school curriculum. In Chapter One and subsequent chapters, the role of parents as equal partners in the educational process is discussed.

Chapter Two presents the framework for services. It outlines the responsibilities of the state education agency to maintain a unit to ensure the policies, procedures, and personnel are in place to meet the unique educational requirements of students with visual impairment. The role of the state agency in providing adequate and timely resources and appropriate reading materials, along with a full array of placement options, is discussed.

Chapter Three describes the process of identifying and assessing individual needs. It addresses the issues of personnel administering assessments, the need for on-going assessment of student progress, the interaction of functional vision and additional disabilities, and appropriate learning and literacy media. This chapter reinforces the need for parent involvement and the responsibility of the educational system to include parents in meaningful ways throughout the process and decision making.

Chapter Four identifies concepts that must be addressed following assessment in reviewing program options and placement. Educators working collaboratively with parents and students develop programs in educational setting which meet the unique individual needs of each student who is blind or visually impaired. These options allow the students an expanded core curriculum and appropriate opportunities to participate with peers and mentors who are visually impaired, as well as with those who are sighted.

Chapter Five describes characteristics of personnel who will work with students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities, in appropriate placements once they have been identified. This chapter discusses the specialized knowledge, skills, and attributes needed to provide educational and orientation and mobility services to students who are visually impaired. Proficiency of educational personnel in literacy and communication modes (including Braille reading and writing and use of optical devices) and specialized training of service providers in orientation and mobility, assistive devices and technology including Braille, speech, and low vision technology are also discussed.

The Glossary provides an in-depth look at some of the terminology used throughout the document. A user-friendly table of contents assists the reader in locating specific information as some issues overlap and are repeated in different contexts. The Appendices section will provide the reader with valuable resources and more extensive explanation of chapter content.

The document has been distributed to state directors of special education, organizations, and parent and consumer groups by the Hilton/Perkins Foundation. Individuals seeking additional copies should contact the Hilton/Perkins Foundation, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA. For further information on the project, contact Dr. Gaylen Pugh, Project Director, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, (256) 772-4350 or via e-mail at .

Editor's note: There are several new books out that parents and even professionals may want to purchase related to IEPs and IDEA. These books were review in the 1999 Library Summer Selection (a special supplement to Exceptional Parent magazine). We thought you might enjoy learning about these publications.

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Go to Fall 1998 Table of Contents.
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

New Landmark Harris Survey Shows Little Improvement (Press Release)

Editor's Note: A recent Louis Harris poll of people with disabilities of all kinds found they continue to lag in employment, educational levels, and indicators of quality of life. Working age adults with disabilities are no more likely to be employed now than 10 years ago. Nationally, blind consumers are even less likely to be employed. In Texas, however, statistics from Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) indicate that legally blind working age adults have a far higher rate of employment than the national average.

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 1998 - Americans with disabilities still face gaps in securing jobs, education, accessible public transportation and in many areas of daily life including recreation and worship. Those findings were presented in a new U.S. survey of 1,000 adults with disabilities announced today at a Washington, D.C. news conference by the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.).

For disability advocates, these findings are disturbing yet motivating for public and private decision-makers. The findings, commissioned by N.O.D in cooperation with Louis Harris & Associates, define the current status of persons with disabilities in American life.

The highlights of the 1998 N.O.D./Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities released today queried adults with disabilities, early this year (with a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points). This survey is the first such national poll taken by Harris in cooperation with N.O.D. since 1994, and the third conducted by Harris since 1986.

Among the most startling findings about the workforce, the research exposed significant gaps between the employment rates of the working disabled versus the working non-disabled. Only 29% of disabled persons of working age (18-64) work full or part-time, compared to 79% of the non-disabled population, a gap of 50 percentage points. Of those with disabilities of working age who are not working, 72% say that they would prefer to work.

Fully a third (34%) of adults with disabilities live in households with total income of $15,000 or less, compared to only 12% of those without disabilities.

Approximately one in five (20%) of adults with disabilities have not completed high school compared to 9% of adults with no disabilities.

Alan A. Reich, President of N.O.D. stated, "These gaps are unconscionable. America must do better!" He added, "At a time when the U.S. unemployment rate is at an historic low and there is a crying need for workers, it is astounding to learn that the employment gap remains so wide. As the survey shows, over 72% of people with disabilities out of the workforce want to work and contribute to the economy. America must remove attitudinal and physical barriers in the workplace and in all other areas of life."

Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of Louis Harris & Associates, commented, "The purpose of this research is not just to measure the gaps in key life areas between people with and without disabilities, but to provide information to help close them. I anticipate that the results will be used by people both inside and outside the disability community, with the media, with corporate America, legislators and state and federal administrators."

This survey is rich with information stemming from the answers to 145 questions on life activities considered most important to people with disabilities. Other findings include:

  • " Only one-third (33%) of adults with disabilities are very satisfied with life in general, compared to 61% of the non-disabled population.
  • " Only seven out of ten (69%) adults with disabilities socialize with close friends, relatives or neighbors at least once a week, compared to more than eight out of ten (84%) among the non-disabled, a gap of 15 percentage points.
  • " About a third (33%) of adults with disabilities go to a restaurant at least once a week, compared to six out of ten (60%) of those without disabilities, a gap of 27 percentage points.
  • " Inadequate transportation is identified as a problem by 30% of adults with disabilities. However, only 17% of non-disabled adults consider daily transportation a problem in any way, representing a gap of 13 percentage points.

What can Americans do to close these participation gaps? According to Reich, "A lot. Each of us can help eliminate the gaps in participation by finally focusing on the abilities not disabilities of every American."

Employment

Employers - in business, government, public agencies, community institutions and groups - all can examine their practices and develop strategies for seeking out and hiring people with disabilities. Businesses must and can implement Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for accommodations in the workplace for people with disabilities, and at reasonable cost. Recent business studies show, it requires on average less than $300 to accommodate a worker with a disability. Home based employment and other forms of workplace flexibility are beneficial to many workers, including the disabled. From working parents to people with disabilities, many people are taking advantage of technology advances that allow them to telecommute and still play an active role in filling the nation's growing job vacancies. Disability awareness and accessibility is good business. Consumers prefer to deal with businesses that address their needs. The 54 million Americans with disabilities are a prime consumer market actively courted by companies who can meet their needs. Use an untapped pool of talent. People with disabilities can contribute innovative and resourceful thinking to the collective knowledge of their workplaces and communities, because they face unique external challenges as they negotiate the physical world around them, as well an internal challenges to their identity as individuals and as members of society.

Communities

Community groups, religious organizations, professional and trade organizations, labor unions and service organizations can examine their practices and adopt plans for including disabled persons. Elected local leaders and officials can ensure that their communities are in full compliance with the law - the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Motor Voter Law, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Recreational, cultural and sports groups and institutions should ensure full accessibility and encourage participation of disabled persons. The recent debate about Casey Martin's participation in the PGA tours highlights the bias people with disabilities face in America today. Recognize people with disabilities as positive contributors to community diversity. People with disabilities, the nation's largest minority, often are not included as a group in corporate and community planning, although they impact diversity at least as much as other minority groups. Moreover the disability population is highly diverse within itself, and, unlike other minority groups anyone can join in an instant.

Individuals

Those of us with disabilities, family members and friends can take the lead by providing guidance to others in encouraging full participation of people with disabilities in community life. Active involvement by people with disabilities in educational and civic life on all levels expands our awareness of how those outside the mainstream live; this allows our communities to be more thoughtfully inclusive of all differences. Americans must extend themselves to their fellow citizens with disabilities, and overcome their fears of the unknown. We need to become more aware of what people with disabilities can contribute; we need to respect their abilities.

Across the Nation

The media can ensure that people with disabilities are portrayed fairly as individuals engaging in public and private life. Negative portrayals of people with disabilities in movies, such as the recent "There's Something About Mary", TV shows and so on, are inaccurate and should not be permitted.

As more people with disabilities participate in the various aspects of American life, the general population will become more informed, and they will abandon their stereotypes based on misconceptions. Attitudes will improve. The full participation of people with disabilities in an increasingly diverse American population overall will result. Just because we have enacted the ADA does not mean that we can rely on it to change attitudes and perceptions about America's disabled. By valuing each individual for his or her abilities allows our nation to benefit globally by demonstrating democracy at its best.

The National Organization on Disability promotes the full and equal participation of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. Founded in 1982, N.O.D. is the only national network organization concerned with all disabilities, all age groups and all disability issues. N.O.D. receives no government funds and is supported entirely by private donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. For more information, contact N.O.D. at (202) 293-5960, TDD (202) 293-5968.

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Spring 1998 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

by Jean Robinson, VI Family Support Coordinator

The Josephine L. Taylor Institute took place just recently in Washington, D.C. The American Foundation for the Blind joined with the American Council of the Blind to provide this forum for education and rehabilitation professionals and parents to share common concerns, increase awareness of needs, and develop innovative strategies for positive changes. I was fortunate to attend this annual gathering in the company of two parents, Lars Anderson, NAPVI Representative for Region 5 (which includes Texas) and Geri Engle, the newly appointed Parent State Co-Coordinator for National Agenda in Texas. They, along with other consumers and professionals, had the "hands on" experience of visiting their legislators at Capitol Hill to share their issues concerning the education of children with visual impairments and the accessibility of services. Both of these parents, in order to fulfill their roles as your representatives, would like to hear from parents, so please contact them:

  • Lars Anderson
    2110 Holly Hill Ln., Carollton, TX 75007-2318
    Home - (972) 4246, Work - (972) 952-4958
    Email <>
  • Geri Engle
    P.O. Box 800541, Houston, TX 77280-0541,
    Home - (713) 464-1755

The conference theme of mobilizing specialized services through consumer-provider partnerships supports the goals of the National Agenda (see SEE/HEAR, Winter 1998 edition). AFB distributed an advance copy of "A Report to the Nation" which summarizes the current status of the National Agenda. This document consists of national data reports on each of the eight goals and state activity reports including surveys on class/caseload size, timeliness of referrals, and access to appropriate materials across the nation. It is interesting to find out what's going on in other states and compare to your own experience. The influence of parent/professional/consumer partnerships on policymakers and the general public is vital to the advancement of the priority goals of the National Agenda. A copy will be available from AFB Press (1-800-232-3044). Strategies to accomplish the goals of the National Agenda at local school-district levels are being developed and will be published in "A Call to Action." A session highlighting the National Agenda activities in Texas will be presented at the TAER conference and may be coming soon to the Educational Service Center near you.

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