Main content

Alert message

Required Qualifications

Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree Certification from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP)

Preferred Qualifications

Experience with school-aged children, including infants and preschoolers Experience with children with multiple impairments Experience working with teams

Job Summary

     Orientation and mobility (O&M) is that part of the educational process that prepares students with visual impairments to travel independently and safely. O&M is one of the nine areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) required to be evaluated for students with visual impairments.  The itinerant O&M specialist travels to the students’ assigned schools and/or home to provide direct and/or consultative services relating to the visual impairment. These services enable the students to travel safely, efficiently, and independently in their home, school, and community environments. The students range in age from birth through 21 years.  The students may or may not have additional disabilities. The cognitive levels of the students range from severely impaired to gifted and talented. Many students with visual impairments are totally included in their neighborhood schools. Others are in special programs in their neighborhood schools or at various campuses throughout the district. Community-based instruction is assumed and a critical component of the O&M program.  It is often necessary for instruction to occur off-campus, so the need for transportation for this community-based instruction is important.

Major Responsibilities and Duties

Assessment and Evaluation

Perform orientation and mobility evaluations that focus on long- and short-term needs of the student for new referrals and at intervals as designated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Identify the needs and strengths of the student and an estimate of the length and frequency of service necessary to meet determined needs and include such information in the assessment report Contribute to other appropriate portions of the IEP, such as goals and recommendations Provide consultation and support services to parents, educators, other team members, and students’ sighted peers Confer regularly with parents, classroom teachers, physical education teachers, physical therapists, and other school personnel to assist in home and classroom modifications to ensure reinforcement of appropriate O&M skills that will encourage the student  who is visually impaired to travel independently in these settings and in the future Work with the teacher of students with visual impairments to conduct the functional vision assessment as it relates to independent travel Evaluate the student’s progress on an ongoing basis and keep progress notes on each student

Appropriate Learning Environments

Instruct students with visual impairments in skills and knowledge that enable them to travel independently based on the IEP Teach students to travel with proficiency, safety, and confidence in familiar and unfamiliar environments Prepare sequential and meaningful instruction geared to the student’s assessed needs, IEP goals and objectives, functioning level, and motivation level Be responsible for the student’s safety during O&M instruction and in other environments while fostering maximum independence during O&M lessons Prepare and use equipment and materials, such as tactile maps, models, optical devices, pre-canes, GPS devices, and long canes for the development of O&M skills Provide orientation of new buildings and new class schedules to students with visual impairments as needed, including those community settings where students receive instruction

Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)

Concept development Gross motor skills Visual efficiency skills (with and without optical devices) Sensory efficiency skills Cane skills, including adaptive mobility devices Map skills Social skills Self-determination Independent living skills Recreational leisure skills Outdoor travel skills Residential Commercial Public Transportation Personal safety Support Services Provide assistance to the students with visual impairments in understanding their attitudes and those of others concerning their visual impairments Emphasize social integration with peers and facilitate opportunities for interaction Administrative/Record Keeping Duties Submit requests for instructional materials, conferences, and reference materials Be knowledgeable of community-based resources that may be available to and useful for students with visual impairments Provide in-service training to general and special education personnel, administrative personnel, sighted peers, and parents concerning the O&M needs of the student and appropriate methods for interacting with the person who is visually impaired that will foster maximum independence and safety Participate in parent conferences and meetings as well as teacher staffing meetings related to students with visual impairments Maintain adequate records on all evaluations, IEPs, and progress reports/data collection Provide progress reports to parents Arrange and prepare paperwork as appropriate and attend all staffing meetings on students with visual impairments as they relate to O&M Communicate with specialists in low vision, ophthalmologists, and optometrists concerning exams, and attend exams when appropriate Liaison between Community and School Provide information about the vision and O&M programs to the schools and community Professional Standards Maintain a reference library of current professional materials Maintain current certification Acquire information about current research, development, and technology by attending conferences and workshops, and by reading journals in the field of visual impairment

Evaluation

The supervisor, typically a special education administrator, will evaluate performance. Individual(s) knowledgeable in programs for students who are visually impaired should complete evaluation.  

Qualifications

Minimum Requirements

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Experience with children with disabilities is preferred

Special Knowledge/Skills/Abilities

  • Use of literary and Nemeth braille for reading, writing, and translation purposes
  • Vocal quality coupled with the articulation skills and ability to correctly read tests, worksheets, books, and other assignments which must be put on tape for the students’ use
  • Knowledge of basic computer programs, such as those used for word processing
  • Effective communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Typing and keyboarding skills (50 wpm)

Office Skills

  • Take, understand, and relay phone messages to teachers
  • Produce necessary documents
  • Produce VI office forms
  • Know teachers’ schedules and how to contact

General Job Description

The job duties of the paraprofessional are to be accomplished under the supervision of and to the specifications of the appropriate VI professional staff. They work in conjunction with general and special education teachers, and

Major Responsibilities and Duties

  • Work with and under the immediate direction of VI professionals
  • Use braille translation software
  • Use word processing programs and related programs
  • Develop tactile maps and graphs under the direction of a VI professional
  • Order, return, and distribute large print and braille books under teachers’ supervision
  • Assist the VI and campus staff with modifications and supplemental services necessary for the education of students with visual impairments
  • Participate in training on any new VI technology (e.g., software, computers, adaptive assisted devices)
  • Assist the teacher(s) and O&M specialists with:
    • Planning, production, and organization of instructional material
    • Individual and/or group instruction activities
    • Other classroom activities
  • Promote and maintain educational team goals
  • Cooperate with other staff members in the movement of students from one activity to another
  • Participate in appropriate in-service education
  • Accept personal responsibility for the care of school facilities, supplies, and equipment
  • Work toward developing and maintaining proper attitudes, good work habits, and respect for the    rights and properties of others
  • Operate in accordance with district and campus regulations
  • Assist with and participate in all school activities (district and/or individual school) cooperatively, with teacher(s) to whom assigned

Evaluation

  • Accurate and timely work to be evaluated by VI professionals and special education administrator(s) in accordance with school board policy

Equipment Used

  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Braille printer
  • Tactile and braille production equipment

                                                                                                                                                              

The foregoing statements describe the general purpose and responsibilities assigned to this job and are not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities and duties that may be assigned or skills that may be required.

Approved by                                                                                  Date                                 

Reviewed by                                                                                  Date                                 

KC Dignan, PhD

Introduction

Administering a program for the education of children with visual impairments presents singular challenges to the ablest of administrators. Visual impairments pose unique educational issues. It is through vision that we gather the vast majority of information about our environment. Even a mild limitation in functional vision will have an impact on our ability to gather and use information about people and the world around us.

   Low numbers
   Wildly diverse students
   Limited VI professionals
+ Itinerant service delivery
____________________
Challenges for Administrators

Visual impairments range in severity from very mild to severe or no vision. A child may acquire a visual impairment at birth or at any point throughout his or her life. Age, severity of impairment, and personality characteristics will all have differing impacts on one’s development and visual functioning. Visual impairments occur in conjunction with all levels of physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. In fact, between 60%–75% of students with visual impairments have additional disabilities. When considered together, these factors make the population of children with visual impairments an extremely heterogeneous group.

The incidence of children with visual impairments is low compared to other disabilities. Only about 1% of the children receiving special education services have a visual impairment. Disability-specific services blend medical and educational information and cover an extremely broad range of pedagogy. Students with visual impairments are primarily served by VI professionals: teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs) and certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&M specialists or COMS). A majority of VI professionals serve students through a mostly itinerant model.

Unique challenges are presented to administrators due to:

  • low numbers of students with vision impairments,
  • the limited numbers of VI professionals available to serve them,
  • the unique characteristics of the itinerant model of service delivery, and
  • the extremely diverse learning needs of students with visual impairments.

Additionally, many administrators have limited information about and experience with visual impairments, or have questions about the hiring and supervision of VI staff. This Toolbox will help administrators better navigate some of those challenges.

What is the Administrator’s Toolbox?

The Administrator’s Toolbox is a collection of information and tools that can assist special education administrators in:

  • understanding certification requirements,
  • advocating for new or additional staff,
  • developing more effective recruiting techniques, caseload analyses, and hiring practices,
  • evaluating and/or updating job descriptions, and
  • assessing the performance of VI professionals.
The Administrator’s Toolbox provides administrators and VI programs with practical, just-in-time information, tools and resources.

This Toolbox provides administrators with easily accessed information in a flexible framework that can accommodate modifications necessary to meet specific local district standards.

This resource is published exclusively on the TSBVI website. Administrators are welcome to print the entire document or those chapters that will support their needs. Administrators can incorporate specific sets of information, such as one or more of the job descriptions, into an existing district format. The information can simply be downloaded or copied to a word processing program.

Why an Administrator’s Toolbox?

This Toolbox is intended to help administrators develop disability-specific resources and data for hiring and supervising VI professionals. In May 1997, in 2001, and again in 2005, all district special education administrators in Texas received a survey about recruitment of VI professionals. In that survey, administrators were asked which types of information would be useful in helping them to recruit VI professionals. Respondents indicated they were very enthusiastic about the topics presented, especially information about caseloads, training options, and sample job descriptions.

How was it developed?

The intent was to develop a set of useful resources for administrators, regardless of their experience with visual impairments, which are pedagogically sound and considered valid by the people who will use it. To that end, people in many roles were consulted—special education administrators and VI professionals in Texas, and from around the country. These professionals were consulted in a variety of ways, through surveys, consultations or other methods.Their feedback resulted in this Toolbox.

Assumptions

Every resource has its limitations. Authors must make some assumptions. The following assumptions that should be considered when evaluating the usefulness of this Toolbox:

  • Programs for students with disabilities may serve students in local school districts, various types of cooperative arrangements, charter schools, or other types of administrative arrangements. For the purposes of this Toolbox, these service areas will be generically referred to as “districts.”
  • Many states have an intermediary administrative educational system. States may call them “intermediate school districts,” “regional education service centers,” or other similar titles. Additionally, programs in many states have outreach programs at residential schools for the blind. Often these programs help provide administrative support, direct services, and/or technical assistance to districts, especially in low-prevalence areas. For the purposes of the Toolbox, these will be generically referred to as “education service centers.”
  • Districts already have many existing resources to assist them in achieving their goals. This Toolbox is intended to support those existing resources by supplying information specific to visual impairments.
  • Districts will modify the included job descriptions, interview questions, procedures, and other resources to meet their specific individual needs.
  • Job descriptions are the foundation of the performance evaluation for school district personnel. Every performance evaluation, regardless of the method used, must be based on the job description.
  • Orientation and mobility specialists (O&M specialists or COMS) and teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) are members of two separate professions that respond to separate professional competencies, performance standards, and certification/licensure requirements.
  • VI professionals certified both as TVIs and as O&M specialists are referred to as “dually certified.” Dual certification presents unique administrative responsibilities. These responsibilities will be discussed in various contexts.
  • Placement decisions for students with visual impairments are based on consideration of a full continuum of services. Each child’s unique individual needs are considered when determining placement.
  • Districts have a working relationship with the VI professionals (TVIs and/or O&M specialists) at their local education service center, or outreach program at a school for the blind. These professionals are available for various types of assistance, such as completing a caseload analysis, guiding a program review, assisting with a job interview, and recruiting new people into a VI training program.
This Toolbox is intended to support those existing resources by supplying information specific to visual impairments.

How to use the Toolbox?

Each chapter is independent of other chapters; however, chapters are related. Each chapter expands on current information, strategies, and resources used by administrators. For further information, consult your state education agency, education service center, special education administrator or VI consultant, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Web site (www.TSBVI.edu), and/or other district resources.

The following scenario—a district anticipating a change in its VI population and service-delivery options— illustrates how one might use this Toolbox:

Scenario

Sunshine Independent School District (SISD) is adjacent to a thriving urban community. Because of new economic developments in the Sunshine area, many people are moving to the district, resulting in changes in the population of children who receive services from special education.

The Sunshine Independent School District has been a part of a special education cooperative that has been restructured. Sunshine ISD is no longer part of the cooperative and will now provide services independently. Services from the VI teacher (TVI) had previously come from the fiscal agent for the cooperative via a shared service arrangement (SSA); O&M services came from the education service center located about 60 miles away. The original TVI decides to stay with the fiscal agent. So, Sunshine needs at least one new VI teacher immediately and should also plan for growth over the next few years.

As the new administrator for the special education program in Sunshine ISD, you are responsible for ensuring that the needs of the students with visual impairments are being met. However, your experience with these students has been limited, and you are not sure you understand who the students are and what their needs are. To assist you in fine-tuning the VI program you could complete the following activities:  

  • In order to determine the extent and amount of VI services needed, you need to conduct a caseload analysis. (Refer to the Caseload Analysis Guidelines chapter of The Administrator’s Toolbox, and to the additional documents provided in Additional Resources, as updates become available online.)
  • Based on the caseload analysis, you find that your district needs a full-time TVI immediately. O&M services can continue from the education service center for the time being, but it seems clear that you will need a part-time O&M specialist within the next 2 or 3 years. Growth patterns indicate that additional VI staff may also be needed at that time. Additionally, the district will be charged for the services and with only a few more students it will be more cost-effective to have one on staff.
  • Your options include training an existing staff person or recruiting and hiring a new person from outside of the district. You decide to hire a VI teacher from outside of the district, and, because it will take 2 to 3 years to train an O&M specialist, you identify an existing staff person to start O&M training next spring.
  • Because you realize that it may be easier and cost-effective to identify and recruit a full-time O&M specialist, you decide to develop a cooperative arrangement with the neighboring districts that had been part of the original co-op/SSA. (Refer to the Recruiting VI Professionals andthe Hiring Options chapters as they become available.)
  • To clarify the roles and responsibilities of the new positions and establish the foundation for the performance evaluation, you select the job description that best matches your district’s philosophy. (Refer to the Job Descriptions chapter.)
  • Now you will need to identify how you are going to find your new VI teacher. (Refer to Recruiting VI Professionals andHiring Options as they become available online.)
  • Before you begin interviewing your pool of applicants, review the sample interview questions. (Refer to the InterviewResources chapter.)
  • You recall that, after having a student with a visual impairment and working with an O&M specialist from the ESC, a special education teacher expressed a strong interest in becoming an O&M specialist. You review the training optionswith her. (Refer to the Training and Professional Development Options chapter.)
  • Depending on the new VI teacher’s level of experience, you may want to her to participate in a mentor program. If the new VI teacher is a recent graduate, or from another state, a mentor can help her adjust to her new position. The teacher who is enrolling in the O&M training program should also be involved in a mentorship program. (Refer to the Mentoring chapter.)
  • As your new staff settles in, you meet with them to discuss specifics of how he or she will be evaluated, including how the standard performance evaluation will be used to evaluate itinerant, consulting educators. (Refer to Performance Evaluation.)  

The previous scenario illustrates how the chapters both work together and can be used individually and customized to meet your particular needs. Each chapter also provides specific tools for your use.

Download this document as MS Word file

This document is intended to be used as a companion to the PDAS (or other district appraisal system) and provides information specific to professionals working with students with visual impairments.  It is assumed that administrators will have the same expectations for excellence for teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs) as other educators regardless of the instructional setting, existing disabilities and/or age of the student.

Teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI) have caseloads which include students ranging in age from birth through 21. Visual impairment affects all aspects of a student’s life.  TVIs typically work with one student at a time and the “classroom” may be in the home, school or community.  Students range in degree of visual loss and intellectual functioning. Lesson goals can relate to academic and functional domains. The observer should perform multiple observations in various settings. TVIs provide specialized instruction to compensate for vision loss. TVIS also recommend accommodations and modifications for access to the general curriculum, but do not teach academic subjects.

Prior to observation, ask your TVI to provide the following:

  • copy of weekly/monthly schedule and lesson plan(s) for observed student(s)
  • copy of functional vision evaluation (FVE) and learning media assessment (LMA)
  • copy of evaluations in the expanded core curriculum (ECC) areas
  • copy of goals from the IEP or IFSP (used with infants)
  • copy of VI PLAAFP and progress reports
  • copy of behavioral assessment/plan, if applicable
  • copy of self-assessment completed by TVI
  • a caseload  overview (number of students, disabilities, location and amount and frequency of service)
  • a brief description of the student’s functioning level, eye condition and setting for observation

Key points to look for when applying the performance evaluation to your TVI

Domain I: Active, Successful Student Participation in the Learning Process

  • Student is engaged with the activity, but may need time to process sensory information.
  • Student may use alternate communication style and may use objects, tactile symbols, vocalizations &/or assistive technology to indicate critical thinking (for example, choice selection, preferences, sequencing).
  • Student gives example of how lesson applies to real life.

Domain II:  Learner-Centered Instruction

  • Differences may be noted in the learner and the curriculum (i.e., may be more functional instead of academic) but instructional sequence should be same.
  • TVI interacts directly with student ensuring sensory input is student specific.
  • The learning objective is communicated to the student and is tied to the student’s IEP goal.
  • Pacing may vary. Processing time can depend on cognition, prior experiences, communication or alertness.
  • TVI demonstrates competence with vision-specific assistive technology used in the lesson (for example abacus, screen reader, telescope/magnifier, braille technology, calendar box).

Domain III:  Evaluation and Feedback on Student Progress

  • TVI documents student academic and functional performance during or following the lesson.
  • TVI communicates feedback on progress directly to the student.
  • TVI adjusts instruction when learner appears to be disengaged or confused.

Domain IV:  Management of Student Discipline, Instructional Strategies, Time, and Materials

  • Management strategies may be different for a single student versus a classroom.
  • Classroom teachers and others report that vision-specific materials are provided in a timely manner.
  • TVI follows a written lesson plan and, if applicable a behavioral plan, while teaching.

Domain V:  Professional Communication

  • TVI provides evidence of regular communication with family, teachers, administrators, doctors, and related staff.
  • TVI provides clear information to the family and other professionals related to the student’s eye condition and necessary accommodations.
  • TVI maintains records of meetings and communication with team members.
  • TVI supports classroom teacher by using strategies such as coaching and modeling.
  • TVI prepares for transitions and other changes in services and settings by meeting with team members in advance.
  • TVI establishes working relationships with team members and other school personnel.
  • TVI provides education and builds awareness of the student’s goals and beneficial strategies to school personnel, other students, families and/or community members. 

Domain VI:  Professional Development

  • TVI has access to professional development specific to his or her field. Sources could be regional service centers, statewide conferences/workshops and/or web-based professional development.
  • TVI routinely attends and documents meetings and conferences related to students with visual impairments.
  • TVI applies information from professional development activities to lessons with students.

Domain VII:  Compliance with Policies, Operating Procedures and Requirements

  • TVI prepares for, attends and participates in all meetings for students with visual impairments.
  • TVI checks in/out from campuses following expected procedures.
  • TVI turns in progress and consultation notes in a timely fashion.
  • TVI submits schedules/logs on time to supervisor.
  • TVI completes evaluations in accordance with compliance timelines.
  • TVI textbooks and other adapted materials are ordered in a timely fashion and their receipt and distribution is documented.
  • TVI provides information for the VI Registration and Deafblind Census on time.
  • TVI submits requests for accommodations of statewide testing materials on time.

Domain VIII:  Improvement of Academic Performance of All Students on the Campus

  • TVI provides information regarding access to and accommodations for district and statewide assessments.
  • TVI is knowledgeable of results of district and statewide assessments.
  • TVI participates in all staff meetings pertaining to his or her students.

For additional information on best practice standards see link Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas:  Guidelines and Standards (June 2010)  www.tsbvi.edu/attachments/EducatingStudentswithVIGuidelinesStandards.pdf

Developed by a collaboration of VI professionals and administrators from the Professional Preparation Advisory Group (PPAG) and the Texas School for the Blind Outreach Department. 

In Texas all educators are required to be evaluated.  TEA provides a tool, the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS).  Districts may adopt it or modify it, or develop some other system that still meets the requirements.

The PDAS is the most commonly used system in Texas.  However, the PDAS was specifically designed for classroom teachers of record.  According to the Statewide PDAS Coordinator for TEA, the PDAS isn’t valid or appropriate for non-classroom educators, such as VI professionals.  Districts are expected to develop their own system for non-classroom educators.

However, the PDAS is what districts are using for most if not all of their educators.  VI professionals (teachers certified in visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialist) need and deserve to have a rigorous, valid and appropriate performance evaluation.

Recent surveys indicate that many administrators may have limited knowledge of what it means to be an itinerant VI professional and about the scope of the students VI professionals teach. 

The challenge is how to facilitate a rigorous performance evaluation, using the tools available and not having each district re-invent the wheel.

A coalition VI professionals and administrators has developed a companion to assist administrators in completing evaluations.  The coalition (the Professional Preparation Advisory Group or PPAG) includes parents, administrators, VI professionals from districts and ESC as well as university faculty and state agency staff.  The PDAS Companions for VI Professionals are intended to help expand knowledge and assist administrators in completing a rigorous evaluation.

There is a document for orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists and one for teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs).  These documents come with the following assumptions:

  • These are not stand-alone documents.  They do not take the place of any performance evaluation system that a district may be using.
  • These are optional, sample documents.  Districts are welcome to make any changes that meet their needs.
  • VI professionals should be evaluated with the same rigor as other educators in the district. 
  • The evaluation will be completed by someone knowledgeable in visual impairments, reflect the most critical aspects of the job and be used to chart future decisions.

We look forward to any comments, concerns and/or improvements you might have.

KC Dignan, PhD.  Statewide Professional Preparation Coordinator,  TSBVI

KC Dignan, PhD

Introduction

The term VI professional includes both teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs) and certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&M specialists or COMS).

O&M specialists or COMS teach independent travel skills to people who are blind and visually impaired.  O&M service will help students with and without additional disabilities achieve increased independence and confidence.  These skills empower the person to travel safely and efficiently in a variety of environments.  Students who have had O&M services are more likely to be prepared for transitioning into their postsecondary environment.  A critical part of O&M service is training in functional settings, including the home school and community, as require by IDEA. O&M specialists hold certification from either the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (www.ACVREP.org) or National Blindness Professional Certification Board (www.NBPCB.org).

VI teachers or TVIs are teachers who certified in vision-specific needs of students with visual impairments.  TVIs are specialists in the expanded core curriculum (ECC).   A sample of these skills includes braille, social skills, use of assistive technology, and self-determination.  Teachers certified to teach students with visual impairments are certified by a state’s educator certification body.  (More information about the ECC will be available in the Expanded Core Curriculum chapter, which will be published in the coming months.)

Because of the limited number of VI professionals in a state, pre-service training and professional development can be a challenge.  This chapter provides information and resources to address those challenges.

Assumptions

  • Each state has a certifying agency that certifies teachers.
  • Administrators have access to the requirement for VI certification within their state. 
  • Administrators in mid-sized and larger districts may have access to a certification specialist in their district.  This service may also be available from education service centers or intermediate school districts.
  • Administrators may be less familiar with the organizations that certify O&M specialists.
  • States may use different terms to refer to the document(s) verifying that the VI professional is qualified to complete his or her duties.  For the purposes of this Toolbox, such document(s) will be referred to as the “certificate” or “certification.”
  • Pre-service or professional training refers to training prior to and during certification, usually by a university program or other qualified entity.  Professional development refers to training that takes place following certification and is usually provided by the district or regional service provider.

What are the training options for certification?

Although not commonly available at most universities, or even in every state, there are a variety of ways to access VI training programs.  The University Directory of Programs in Visual Impairments is one option.  It includes contact information, program offerings, financial aid information, and other basic information.  While the TSBVI university and college directory is updated periodically, information is constantly changing at these institutions.  Programs should be contacted directly for the most current information.  

Distance learning

For more information about training programs visit the University Directory on the TSBVI website: www.tsbvi.edu/pds/498-college-and-university-programs

With the advent of distance learning, people in states without a VI-training program are still able to access quality training programs.  The programs are delivered in an array of venues.  Some programs will be accessible entirely via Internet-based learning. Others will use a blend of interactive TV (or compressed video) systems, Internet, and face-to-face instruction.  Review the University Directory of Programs in Visual Impairments for basic information and then contact the specific programs for detailed information.

On campus

On-campus programs deliver instruction in a traditional classroom setting.  Students may attend courses during the academic year, or only during the summers. Undergraduate programs are often on-campus programs. Post-baccalaureate O&M programs often require some time spent at the university.

Outreach

An outreach program is when the university staff travels to another location to provide face-to-face training in that geographical area. These courses may be provided on weekends or during the summer.

Alternative routes to certification

With the increase in distance learning options, professional preparation is available in every state, even those without a training program.

More than half the states have some type of alternative or nontraditional type of certification programs.  These programs vary widely from state to state and from program to program.  According to the U.S. Department of Education (2004), alternative programs may provide instruction in a nontraditional way and/or emphasize recruiting nontraditional candidates (including those who may be a bit older, or have an existing college degree in a non-educational area) .  Although these programs vary widely, such programs typically include a period of intense instruction followed by a supervised and mentored internship with continuing professional development.  Many states have some type of alternative VI certification.  Contact your state’s certifying agency for specifics in your state. Note that no alternative route is available for an O&M certificate.

What are the requirements for becoming a VI professional?

VI teachers (TVIs)

VI teachers must complete those requirements set by their certifying body. Various options exist.   The most common approaches include:

  • a “stand-alone” VI certificate, not requiring any other certificate,
  • an existing certificate in another area (with or without a Master’s degree) plus a certificate in visual impairments,
  • a Master’s degree that includes certification in visual impairments
  • generic special education certificate, relying on professional development options for disability-specific training, and/or
  • successful completion of one or more certification examinations.

Contact your state’s certifying agency for state-specific information. 

O&M specialist (COMS)

O&M specialists hold a certificate from one of the following certifying bodies: Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP: www.acvrep.org) or the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB: www.nbpcb.org).  Each organization has established training requirements for certification. It is rare for a state to certify O&M specialists.  Unlike TVIs, O&M specialists are not required to have educational certification nor experience in education.

What types of financial support are available?

Many training programs offer some type of financial support.  Those programs that have received federal grants are open to all residents, regardless of state.  State-based grants will be limited to that state’s residents.  Please note that specifics about financial support for students will vary from year to year. 

Some regional service centers, districts, and/or state education agencies provide a level of financial support to students in VI certification courses.  This can be an excellent recruitment tool.  The types of support offered may include tuition reimbursement, purchasing or loaning textbooks, travel assistance as needed, and/or release time so the candidate can attend VI-related courses or functions.

The University Directory of Programs in Visual Impairments provides basic information about financial support.  However, availability changes with every grant cycle and the Directory may be out of date.  Please check directly with the university.

What is the importance of “succession planning”?

Existing educators or paraprofessionals are often the best candidates to become VI professionals.

It is well known in the field that there is a large bubble of educators who are on the cusp of retirement. Between 2010 and 2012 the number of VI teachers in Texas who retired more than tripled.  Many state administrators are concerned about both replacing those retiring educators and providing an adequate supply of new educators for future growth—i.e., succession planning.  These proactive states provide some type of support for those individuals who want to be VI professionals but may not yet have a Bachelor’s degree. 

Succession-type programs are desirable for braillists, interveners, and other related paraeducators.  These special staff members are already familiar with the students and committed to their success.  Some paraprofessionals will have a Bachelor’s, and just need to seek teacher certification, perhaps via an alternative certification program.  Others may need to get their Bachelor’s first.  They may just need a bit of a ‘nudge’ to seek full certification. 

Frequently, the diversity of the paraprofessionals/support staff are often more representative of the community than the instructional staff.  Everyone benefits when the instructional staff is representative of the community.

The most important characteristic in an effective succession plan is offering information about future career options in a coordinated and systematic manner that is meaningful to the target group.  Simply referencing the availability of a program and offering a brochure found in your district’s human resources office is not likely to yield results.  The fact that an administrator has noticed their potential is powerful.  Having a conversation, even a brief one and then referencing the VI professionals in the district, is a dynamic recruitment technique.

How do we ensure adequate professional skills development following certification?

Pre-service training is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is impossible for any pre-service program to address the needs of all VI professionals.  The scope of student ages, functional impact of the disability and additional disabilities is just too broad.

Adequate and appropriate continuing education/professional development for all educators is a significant issue. For VI professionals is a serious issue.  VI teachers report being required to attend team meetings that do not have relevance to them, like the 4th grade social studies team or textbook selection committees.  They also report not having access to professional development in areas of acute need, such as cortical visual impairments. 

The focus for educators is now moving from “highly qualified” to “highly effective,” with the education field’s increased emphasis on testing and performance evaluation.  As a result, appropriate professional development is even more important than before.

Access to relevant professional development is not only important for developing and maintaining highly effective VI professionals, it is also a major factor in retention. Retaining existing VI professionals is becoming more important as the rate of retirement for VI professionals increases.

Critical professional development areas for VI professionals include the following assessment and instructional in all areas of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) domains including:

  • Addressing vision aspects of the core curriculum
  • Career and vocational education and transition
  • Independent living skills
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Recreation and leisure
  • Self determination
  • Sensory systems
  • Social interaction skills
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Technology, assistive and general
  • Visual efficiency skills
  • Related domains that apply to multiple students, such as
    • Deafblindness
    • Early childhood
    • Professional skills and resources, including itinerant management skills
    • Visual and multiple disabilities

Determining appropriate professional development

No professional preparation program can prepare a VI professional for all of the unique needs needed. Professional development that is tied to caseload needs is key to increasing student independence.

Administrators face challenges in helping the VI professionals on staff gain and maintain the skills needed to adequately perform their jobs.  Those districts with VI professionals usually have only one or two on staff.  Those that employ VI professionals on a contractual basis may not have any control over the nature of the professional development sought by the contractor.  Many states do not have internal, robust professional development systems in low-incidence areas, or systems that are responsive to the specific needs of the O&M specialist or the VI teacher. 

With the advent of numerous distance-learning options, many individuals are able to access ‘just in time’ professional development.  Professional development tools are available via Web sites, professional organizations, and/or private contractors. 

The first step is to determine what VI professionals’ need, where weaknesses exist, and what skills will be needed in the near future.  To assist both administrators and VI professionals in assessing and planning for professional development, TSBVI developed a Professional Development Log (PDF) or Professional Development Log (DOC)

Using the Professional Development Log

This tool provides a framework for administrators and VI professionals to review caseloads and plan for appropriate professional development topics.  It can also be used as a needs-assessment tool. 

When printed on 11” x 17” cover-stock paper and folded in half, the Professional Development Log acts as a folder to collect documentation from one’s professional development activity.  This will be useful for the VI professional when it is time to renew his or her certification and for the administrator to verify participation.

Regardless of the route taken to assess professional development needs, or the method used to access necessary training, the wise administrator recognizes that access to appropriate professional development is a powerful factor in retaining the highly skilled VI professional.

The Professional Development Log is a convenient way to plan for and record professional development activities.

The front page (or first page) of the Professional Development Log contains general information about the VI professional. This includes various common methods of professional development and a place for VI professionals to specify any requirements or limitations that may apply. Download the Professional Development Log (PDF) or Professional Development Log (DOC)

What is inside?

The inside (or next 2 pages) includes an extensive listing of appropriate professional development topics. These topics are organized according to the domains in the expanded core curriculum (ECC).  Additionally, there are topics that are organized by either professional areas or population, such as early childhood or students who are deafblind. 

Preceding each topic are two blank lines. The first line is to indicate needed areas. This can define the topical framework for upcoming professional development.  Users could either check off target areas, or use an initial to indicate the type of professional development, whether it was a workshop or independent study, for example.  The second space is to indicate the number of hours completed.

The last page is intentionally left blank. This is for making notes or other information to document.  For example, if the state has a form required for re-certification, it could be reproduced here.

Professional Development Log for TVIs

References

U.S. Department of Education. (2004). Innovations in education: Alternative routes to teacher certification.  http://www2.ed.gov/admins/tchrqual/recruit/altroutes/index.html

Reynolds, A; & Wang, L.  Teacher Retention: What Role Does Professional Development School Preparation Play?.(2005).  New Educator, v1 n3 p205-229.

Dignan, KC. (2003).  Analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to VI professionals. (Unpublished internal report developed for the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired). Austin, Texas: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Welcome to the second edition of “The Toolbox”.  The first edition was developed primarily for administrators in Texas and was distributed in 1999.  Since that time many things have changed, including instructional and web-based resources. 

Also, what we thought would be limited to Texas has been used my hundreds of others in many other states. 

Clearly it was time to revise and expand The Toolbox.

What did not change?

Like the original Toolbox, each chapter included a brief discussion of issues and is followed by one or more resource to be used by administrators and VI professionals alike.  Each of these discussions will be short, usually 10 pages or less. 

What changed?

However, the topics and the scope of the information have changed.  The information is less Texas-centric and more national in scope.  Some of the information, like workload analysis tools, has been updated.  Also, in recognition that they are two entirely separate topics, hiring and recruiting information has been separated into their own chapters.  The information on recruitment has been significantly expanded, offering administrators tools that they can use not only for recruitment, but other types of advocacy as well.

The emphasis on realistic and appropriate performance evaluation has been growing in recent years. This critical function is challenging when evaluating educators who are either itinerant or work in co-teaching situations.  Vision-specific curriculum for students with visual impairments is referred to as the “expanded core curriculum”, or ECC.  This information may be new to administrators.  Information about the ECC has also been added.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions on the 2nd edition of The Administrator’s Toolbox.

Special Education Administrators are Busy People….

Resources and information for your orientation and mobility questions

Orientation and Mobility Issues

O&M specialists and administrators working together to meet challenges

Orientation and Mobility…

  1. “[S]ervices provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community;”
  2. Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(i) of IDEA

O&M Summarized from IDEA

Includes teaching students the following:

  • Use of existing vision
  • Develop & use spatial and environmental concepts to establish, maintain, or regain orientation and line of travel;
  • Use of the long cane (or other travel devices, including wheelchairs) for safe travel
  • Use of distance low vision devices; and
  • Other concepts, techniques, and tools.

Sec. 300.34(c)(7)

O&M Evaluation in IDEA 2004

According to state rule and federal regulations it is the responsibility of the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee to make decisions regarding evaluation (including orientation and mobility), eligibility and services for a student with a suspected or known disability.[(CFR 300.304 - 300.306; TAC 89.1040), TEA, June 2008]

Let’s Do the Numbers…

Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(i)

Definition

Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(ii)

Instructional content

Sec. 300.302

Screening is not an evaluation

Sec. 300.304(a)

Must notify parents of any evaluation

Sec. 300.304(b) (1)(2)

Assess using multiple and relevant functional and developmental abilities

Sec. 300.304(b)(3)

Use of valid, technically sound instruments

Sec. 300.304(c)(1)(iii)

Assessment materials technical sound

Sec. 300.304(c)(1)(iv)

Assessment by trained, qualified personnel

Sec. 300.304(c)(3)

Assesses skills and abilities, not sensory impairment

Sec. 300.304(c)(4)

Assesses all areas of suspected disabilities

Sec. 300.304(c)(6)

Assessment identifies all educational and related service needs

Sec. 300.304(c)(7)

Tools and strategies are relevant

Qualified Assessors

Only certified O&M specialists are qualified to perform O&M evaluations

  • ACVREP-certified O&M specialists (COMS)
  • Interns practicing under an ACVREP-certified O&M specialists
  • There is no emergency, partial, probationary, or provisional certification in O&M.
  • The VI teacher can complete a screening, not an O&M evaluation.

Who Needs O&M?

Students with visual impairments are at-risk for needing O&M regardless of their:

  • Age, including birth-3
  • Degree of low vision
  • Physical ability
  • Additional disabilities
  • Familiarity with school and/or home

Status of O&M Services

Chart: 50% no evaluation, 50% evaluation, 31% received O&M

With only 50% receiving evaluations it is difficult to know the true need in Texas

O&M Is Needed When Students Experience Changes in …

  • Vision
  • Visual demand
  • Lighting conditions change
  • such as a darkened lecture room, hall, or auditorium; or
  • outdoors, such as dusk or night
  • Visually complex environments
  • lots of details in maps or graphics
  • environment is cluttered

Other Changes

Functional environments/transitions

  • New building(s)
  • New buildings on same campus
  • Moving from elementary to middle school, etc.
  • Community-based work or school settings

Services May Be Intermittent

Not all students need O&M at all times

Students need O&M when:

  • They have trouble in new environments
  • They have trouble on dark days, in bright light or bright days, or when the sun is setting
  • Their travel needs change:
    • New school
    • New environment within school
  • They have changes in other sensory systems:
    • Hearing impairment
    • Motor issues

How O&M Specialists Interact to Support Student Progress

O&M specialist interact with the following:

  • Parents
  • Classroom Staff
  • TVI
  • Adapted P.E.
  • PT
  • OT
  • Peers

O&M Specialists Work:

  • In isolation with students
  • In home, school, and community environments
  • Non-traditional hours
  • Travel between students
  • With limited supervision
  • Administrators need to know about O&M services.

Limit Your Liability

Students who receive O&M:

  • Learn safe stair techniques, thereby limiting the school’s liability.
  • Are able to play on the playground with less chance for injury, thereby limiting the school’s liability.
  • Are able to travel with greater independence to and from the bus stop, thereby limiting the school’s liability.

Efficient Use of Staff

Students who receive O&M are more likely to …

  • Transition between classes without assistance
  • Navigate the cafeteria without assistance
  • Participate in community-based instruction, field trips, and/or vocational placements with less staff involvement
  • Ride the regular school bus

O&M Assists in Transition

Students who receive O&M are more likely to…

  • Be prepared for post-secondary education
  • Be employable upon graduation
  • Live at a higher level of independence
  • Have skills necessary to access to transportation options
  • O&M services support meeting
    • SPP indicators 13 & 14

Students who receive O&M…

  • Have concrete, authentic experiences in natural settings, developing a language base for literacy.
  • O&M instruction prepares students for statewide assessments, supporting:
    • Map skills
    • Math skills
    • Social skills
    • Problem solving
    • Time and money concepts
    • Science and social studies

O&M Specialists are Grown in Texas

  • Two training programs in Texas
  • Tuition stipends available
  • About 2 years for completion (less for existing TVIs)
  • Post-certification support:
  • ESCs
  • VI mentor program
  • TSBVI Outreach

Recruitment Timelines

  1. Awareness:
    • Time: 2-5 years
    • Activities: basic informational, exposure.
  2. Consideration:
    • Time: 2-5 years
    • Activities: Additional information sought/received. Exposure to visual impairments
  3. Action:
    • Time: Up to 18 months
    • Activities: actively explores options; applies to program
  4. Training:
    • Time: 12 – 24 months (possibly more for O&M internship)
    • Activities: attends program, may work as VI professional
  5. Mature VI Professional
    • Time: Typically 3 years after training

Summary

  • O&M Evaluations are a legal obligation
  • O&M services address safety and liability
  • O&M promotes skills necessary for transition
  • Recruiting and training resources are available
  • And finally
  • Knowledgeable administrators are better able to recruit & supervise O&M specialists

For More Information Contact:

Your Education Service Center (ESC)

Stephen F. Austin State University

Texas Tech University

Outreach Program at TSBVI         

By Elsie Rao, VI Teacher, Tyler Independent School District

For educational purposes, the low vision student is typically one who reads print and has a corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or worse in the better eye. Most low vision students have very poor distance vision, so this makes it difficult for them to see the chalkboard or to gather detailed information from filmstrips, charts, or overhead screens. These students can usually read print and gain information from pictures, charts, and graphs when the material is up close. Each low vision student's needs are unique, but the following suggestions may be helpful when working with a low vision student in the classroom.

Some General Facts Regarding Students with Low Vision:

  • Using the eyes does not injure or harm them. Encourage the student to use his/her eyes since greater efficiency can only be developed through the use of the eyes for visual tasks unless a doctor has indicated otherwise.
  • The use of glasses cannot help improve visual acuity for all eye conditions. Glasses may be worn to reduce glare and help with fatigue.
  • Some students can read ordinary type with ease; others may require large print, a hand-held magnifier, or a closed circuit TV.
  • The visually impaired child should be able to participate in most recreational activities except for those that require good visual acuity. (i.e. dodgeball)
  • Eyes cannot be "strained" but may tire quickly. An activity that allows the student to change focus is often helpful and appreciated.
  • Holding materials close to the eyes will not harm them. Allow the student to position materials at a distance he/she chooses.
  • Check the student's folder for the modification sheet. This will tell the classroom teacher what specific modifications need to be made in the classroom. Remember, these modifications are REQUIRED, since they are written in the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Contact the teacher of the visually impaired if you have questions or need suggestions for your particular room.

Suggestions for the Classroom Teacher:

  • Preferential seating is often necessary for a student with low vision.
  • Let the student select a seat where he/she sees best
  • Seat a student as close to the board as practical
  • Reduce glare from windows and lights, as much as possible
  • Seat the student with his/her back to windows
  • Read the student's Functional Vision Evaluation to find out if this student can copy materials written on the board or overhead projector.
  • Purple dittos or "fuzzy" Xerox copies should not be used with this student. Clear contrast between the print and the background will help the student be more successful.
  • Black print on white paper is usually best. If other modifications are required they should be contained in the list of modifications handed out at the beginning of the semester and in his/her Functional Vision Evaluation of the Special Education Folder
  • Contrast, print style, and spacing of letters can be more important than print size.
  • Low vision students may require more time to complete assignment.
  • Low vision students are usually slow readers because of the visual impairment.
  • Standardized tests that require separate answer sheets may be especially difficult for a student to use. Check modifications to see what procedure to use.
  • Word games, puzzles and graphs may be inappropriate for a low vision student. Check with the VI teacher if you are unsure.
  • Give the student the grade he/she earns. Donating a grade to a student really hinders-not helps the student's learning.
  • Storing and using large print materials may be difficult for the student to manage in a classroom. Help the student find a place for books and supplies. Also, a locker may not be accessible if it has a combination lock.

Understanding A Low Vision Student:

  • The emotional needs of a low vision student are like those of any other. He/She wants to be liked by teachers and peers. They do not want to be different!
  • Schedule a time for a private meeting with the child. This will allow the student to tell you about seating preferences, lighting, and modifications that are helpful.
  • Have the student explain his/her visual problem to you.
  • Try not to call attention to the child's eye problem in front of the class.
  • Always use the student's name when addressing him/her.
  • The rules of discipline should be the same for a low vision student, as for any other, unless the IEP states otherwise.
  • So much of communication is non-verbal. Often a student with low vision is unable to recognize the expression on someone's face or figure out what has happened in a situation that is nonverbal. It is helpful if the teacher privately explains the situation to the student with low vision
  • Be aware of the student's frustration level since so much of learning and school is visual. It is easy for a student with poor acuity to become frustrated.
  • If you notice the student has food or ink on his face or clothes, discretely tell them.

by Tanni L. Anthony, Anchorage, Alaska

Cortical visual impairment (CVI) occurs when there is damage to the visual cortex, or to the posterior visual pathways, or to both places in the brain. The eye generally does not have any internal damage although CVI can also be evident in children who do have ocular damage. The reduction of vision is due to neurological damage which hinders visual stimulation from being organized and interpreted by the brain. It is analogous to an imperfect computer chip which cannot fully process the input from the keyboard.

The diagnosis of cortical visual impairment can be made by an ophthalmologist and/or neurologist. The child should have a complete eye examination and a visual evoked potential (VEP) test. Children who are cortically visually impaired have a medical history that involves neurological impairment due to conditions such as asphyxia, cerebral hemorrhage, infection of the central nervous system, and/or trauma.

Dr. James Jan, a pediatric neurologist in British Columbia, has worked with children with a sight loss for over two decades. He has been involved with research in particular on the subject of cortical visual loss as it is a neurological based problem that results in visual impairment.

Just under 10% of the current population of visually impaired children in British Columbia are cortically visually impaired according to Dr. Jan. His practice has included many children with this diagnosis and he and his colleagues have made several observations about the “visual behaviors” associated with cortical visual impairment.

It is important to understand the base of information known about CVI must be analyzed to each child as an individual. Each characteristic of CVI may or may not fit an individual child. The information that does “fit” will help parents and teachers to design a home and/or school program that is tailored to each child’s needs. Dr. Jan’s and his colleagues at Children’s Hospital have noted the following behaviors associated with cortical impairment:

  • Visual performance can be quite variable, simply put, some days are better than others. Visual functioning can even change from hour to hour with some children. Factors which might influence the fluctuation include: fatigue, noisy environments, illness, medications, seizure activity, and unfamiliarity of environment.
  • Visual field defects may also be associated with CVI due to specific neurological damage.
  • Movement cues, especially in the peripheral fields can often stimulate a visual response. Visual interpretation of the environment may be improved for some children when they are actually moving as opposed to standing still. Parents of some children with CVI have reported improved visual responsiveness when the child is riding in a car.
  • Color vision does not seem to be affected. In fact, some colors appear to be “better received” that others such as red, orange, and purple.

The process of visual habilitation is in many ways different for the child with CVI than for the child who experiences an ocular impairment. The focus is for the CVI child to control visual input to avoid overstimulation. In view of the aforementioned characteristics of CVI, the following guidelines are recommended for consideration in home and/or school programming:

  • Reduce extraneous sensory information from the child’s “working/playing environment”. Eliminate unnecessary noise or visual distractions. Present one item at a time as much as possible.
  • The use of touch should be a primary means of introducing information. Continue to place the objects of daily care or “learning activities” in the child’s hand when presenting the item.
  • Language is very important for information about the object or visual situation. Use labels that include description words. Tell the child what she/he is “seeing”. Voice intonation is important as far as providing meaning to a situation. When disciplining, for example, a firm voice should be used to match the words being used.

Familiarity is also an extremely important consideration. Parent and teacher experience has shown objects that are familiar often result in increased visual attention to that object as opposed to one that is new to the child. Think about what objects the child is involved with during his/her daily care activities. Make these objects part of his/her vocabulary (touch, function, sight). Examples might include:

  • bottle/cup – drinking
  • bowl/plate/spoon – eating
  • comb – morning grooming
  • washcloth or favorite bath toy – bathing
  • music toy – bedtime
  • diaper – diaper changes
  • “security toy” – time to go somewhere outside of the home

Parents and teachers should decide what objects are typically used with the child during everyday activities or routines. To establish familiarity, the same object(s) should be used each time. The object should be visually, tactually, and verbally presented at the onset of the activity and then talked about as the child experiences their function. The exact style of presentation will vary according to each child’s general learning style and needs.

  • The colors red and yellow are thought to be more readily perceived so may be used to enhance a visual target.
  • Repetition is important for all children, practice is how they learn to integrate their new knowledge and put it to use. This especially is true for children who experience a sight loss.
  • Be aware the child might fatigue easily in situations which require visual/auditory/tactile deciphering of information. Build in breaks and allow for extra response time before giving the child more information.
  • Proper positioning is important for the child. If she/he is not in an aligned or supported body posture, the child cannot fully concentrate on the task at hand. This is true for all children, but especially important for the child with CVI and cerebral palsy. Consultation with a therapist should be utilized to promote optimal positioning.
  • Each child’s family knows their child the best, their knowledge of what he/she likes, dislikes, etc. should be built into his/her learning activities.