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

Tell Me, and I'll Forget

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

The title of this article is from the old Native American proverb: Tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand. The first part of the proverb reminds me of a class in which the drone of the teacher reading from a textbook never quite penetrated my preoccupation with the more important subject of lunch the next period. The results from those occasional days, of course, you already know. Inevitably there appeared on my desk - the TEST. If I could only remember what I'd heard! Nothing. The only thing I knew for sure was that the answers to questions 3 and 7 were definitely not "hamburger" and "french fries."

Fortunately for me, not many of my learning experiences were limited to the "tell me" variety. Most were right in step with the observation of the first occupants of our great country: I remember best those subjects in which I was fully involved. This is why I have advocated over the years for full and active consumer and parental involvement in the services the agency provides. No matter what you tell a person about blindness, until you show them the benefits of certain skills and get them involved in reaping the benefits as they learn, the information you told them won't do much good on "test day."

Test days for people who are blind are those days in which they want to independently achieve without sight something that another person does with sight, such as navigate their way to the grocery store or to work, or try out the monkey bars at school. Typical test days for parents of children who are blind are those days when they are called to participate in their child's ARD or when they are trying to locate a fulfilling afternoon activity for their child.

The Commission measures the success of its services against "test scores" of its consumers. We really celebrate when consumers graduate summa cum laude from our programs, which means they have gained the skills, training, knowledge, and equipment they need to be confident in their own abilities. Parents graduate with equally high honors when they have the skills to participate as a full partner in their child's educational program and have a reservOír of activities and resources for their child.

One of the major ways consumers and parents are kept involved in the learning experiences offered by the Commission is through written plans. These plans assure that consumers and parents are not only involved in planning the outcome they expect from services, but also in planning the individual steps along the way. In our Vocational Rehabilitation Program, the plan is an Individual Plan for Employment. Our Blind and Visually Impaired Children's Program uses a Family Service Plan. Both of these formats have been revised and improved this year.

Our new family service plan is set up so that the basics we could describe as "Confidence 101" skills are covered, which when learned, will produce the highest real-life test results for families who have children with visual impairments, including children with multiple disabilities. These core services include family services, educational support, independent living skills, social-emotional development, leisure and recreational skills, prevocational skills (or future planning for children with multiple disabilities where work does not appear to be an option), communication skills, travel skills, and low vision and medical services. The plan changes as the child progresses and reaches new developmental milestones. The progress criteria then help validate that the child and parents are on the right path or suggest that another direction is better to reach the planned goal.

Coming back to the old proverb, the Commission's staff has been challenged to reinforce what they "tell" consumers and parents by getting them fully involved in the family service plan so that what is heard is not forgotten on test days. In reality, however, we can share information and the knowledge that we have gained over decades of experience, but the willingness to listen and be fully involved in core services we know are needed, rests with the people who come to us for assistance.

If you have had the opportunity to be involved with our new family service plan, we would welcome your feedback. Are we developing plans with you that involve you in a way that helps you understand why certain core skills will better prepare you and your child for the many test days coming your way? If not, what do we need to do differently? Just as important, how actively involved are you in your family service plan? Only together can we make a difference!

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002