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Fall 2000 Table of Contents
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Educational Services in Texas for Children with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness

By Cyral Miller, Director of Outreach and Kate Moss, Family Support Specialist, TSBVI, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Texas parents are often confused about the range and type of educational services available to their school-aged children with visual impairments or deafblindness. It can be hard to advocate effectively without a full understanding of service delivery options.

On his/her 3rd birthday, services for a child with visual impairments or deafblindness move from an ECI program to the local school district. At this time the Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) that addressed the needs of the child and the family is no longer used. Instead an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is developed by a team made up of the parent, professionals and (when appropriate) the child. The focus is no longer on the family and child as strongly, but rather focuses more on the child's educational programming. This team is mandated by federal and state law to assess the child's performance and determine appropriate services for provision of a free, appropriate public education that addresses the specific needs related to his/her visual impairment/deafblindness. Services may be provided in a regular classroom setting, a self-contained setting, resource classroom, residential setting (such as Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired or Texas School for the Deaf), or in a combination of settings. Children with chronic health conditions may need to be served at home. A physician must recommend the need for these services.

Local Independent School Districts (ISD)

Please check with your local ISD for web addresses, or you can search the Texas Education Agency website http://www.tea.tx.state.us/

Services for students with visual impairment are most often provided by a local district or a special education coop which hires teachers with specialized credentials. Typically this means that an itinerant (traveling) vision teacher will travel from school to school to work with the student and/or his/her educational team. The types of services provided by the Teacher of the Visually Impaired include:

Services will also often be recommended from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who can provide instruction in safe and effective movement and travel skills.

Services for the child with deafblindness should also come from a Teacher of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. This teacher may work directly for the local district or he/she may work for the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf (RDSPD). Local ISDs may contract with the RDSPD to provide services. The Teacher of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired has these responsibilities:

Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPD)

Learn more about RDSPD programs through the TEA website by going to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/deaf/.

Eligible children with deafblindness may receive all or part of their services from an RDSPD program. There are a number of programs in most regions of the state, although not necessarily a program located in every district. If a school district hires their own Teacher of the Deaf or Hearing Impaired the services related to a deafblind child's hearing loss may or may not come from an RDSPD program. Also, some children who are deafblind may have a mild hearing loss and do not qualify as auditorially impaired for the purpose of receiving services from RDSPD. All of this is determined at the IEP meeting. RDSPDs often have a center-based program or special classrooms located on the campus of a neighborhood school. Students served by an RDSPD program may receive consultative or direct services (auditory training, language development, etc.) from an RDSPD Teacher of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, assessment support, and/or technology such as FM Trainers.

Education Service CENTERS (ESC)

ESC websites are accessible from the TEA website. Go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/special.ed/escinfo/director.html

The local ISD and RDSPD programs receive support from the Education Service Centers (ESC). There are twenty ESCs, each serving a specific region of the state. The ESC may provide direct services to a child with a visual impairment, but generally it supports Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialists who are employed by the districts. This support is provided primarily through planning, supplemental funding, and in-service development in its region. Each ESC must develop, with stakeholders, a regional plan to jointly determine how to improve student performance. These plans address many areas of educational services and are required in order to receive supplemental funding from the Texas Education Agency. Since 1998, each ESC also has a designated staff member who is a Deafblind Specialist, with specific duties relative to this population of students with combined hearing and vision losses.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

For detailed information about TSBVI go to our website. It is located at http://www.tsbvi.edu/school/

TSBVI is a special public school established by the Texas Legislature to provide specialized and intensive services which focus on the unique learning needs of students with visual impairment, including those with additional disabilities.

Regular school-year placement

TSBVI offers a comprehensive educational program during the regular school year. Students must be referred by the local IEP committee and admission is considered on an individual basis. Curricular offerings include regular academics, functional academics, and basic skills programming for 6-21 year-olds. Services are provided during the school day and in residential programming.

Summer school

There are a variety of summer school programs that range in duration from 1-6 weeks. Parents can make application directly to TSBVI for summer school programs. Last year's summer offerings included: elementary and secondary level enrichment programs, career education offering non-paid work training and paid work experiences for secondary students; specialized programs in technology and mathematics, and specialized camps for students with visual and multiple disabilities including deafblindness.

Short programs

Beginning in 2000, short courses are being offered at TSBVI during the regular school year to students enrolled in their local ISD programs. A course in daily living skills is offered over a series of four weekends in a single school year. Two week long technology programs have been scheduled for this year. A week of individualized study is being provided in six sessions throughout the year. Many new programs will be developed from year to year. (See the Summer 2000 issue of SEE/HEAR for more about these programs, or visit the TSBVI website at www.tsbvi.edu/school/special/.)

Outreach

There are three branches of Outreach focus: Statewide Programs, Visually Impaired Outreach, and Deafblind Outreach.

Statewide programs are in place to manage the American Printing House for the Blind Quota Funds used to purchase and disseminate (free to districts) specialized materials such as braillers, braille paper, light boxes and so on. The annual statewide registry of eligible students is conducted at TSBVI. Other statewide functions are coordination of teacher preparation issues, mentoring for VI teachers and O&M specialists-in-training, and statewide staff development. TSBVI works collaboratively with all twenty Education Service Centers, as well as with universities, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , and other related agencies.

Visually Impaired Outreach staff provide training and support to professionals working with babies and toddlers 0-5, professionals serving students 6-21, and to their families. The team works with individual students or supporting a district wide program for visually impaired students. The Technology Loan Program is part of this branch of Outreach.

Texas Deafblind Outreach is a similar team. In addition to support for professionals and families, there is a focus on transition issues related to the post-educational world. Texas Deafblind Outreach also coordinates the INSITE curriculum training for professionals working with children 0-5 with multiple sensory impairments.

Much of the focus of Outreach is on helping families and professionals. Activities include directly consulting with a family and school program and suggesting programming recommendations, giving workshops, conferences, or small local in-service opportunities, and by providing leadership in statewide issues and training in the area of visual impairments and deafblindness.

Curriculum

This department develops and publishes a variety of materials for teachers and parents on topics including orientation and mobility, a curriculum for visually and multiply impaired students, and a paraprofessional handbook.

Texas School for the Deaf (TSD)

Learn more about the various programs available for students at TSD by visiting their website. Go to http://www.tsd.state.tx.us/.

Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) provides residential school placement, summer school programming, a special transition program, workshops for parents of students attending TSD and serves as an Educational Resource Center on Deafness. Unlike TSBVI or other residential programs, parents may independently refer their child to TSD or the referral may come as a result of the IEP committee's recommendations. Children who attend TSD may have previously attended Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPD) or inclusive programs in their home school districts.

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) (TCB)

Although Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) is not specifically an education agency, there are complementary services in the area of education available through this agency. To learn more about their role in both education and especially in rehabilitation go to their website at http://www.dars.state.tx.us/

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) provides a variety of services. Their service focus is geared more towards non-educational needs such as in-home training in daily living skills, and tuition for summer camps. They also can assist with travel and registration costs for families attending training. The TCB children's caseworkers or transition counselors can also support the parents and student in advocating for educational services by helping them prepare for, and by attending, the IEP meeting. If the child is deafblind, the TCB also offers support to the family, the student, and the children's caseworker or counselor by providing a deaf-blind specialist. A deaf-blind specialist can determine the need for technology and services that are unique to deafblindness, such as getting and using a TTY, a vibrating alarm clock, or security devices.

TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY (TEA)

The lead agency in educational services in Texas is of course, the Texas Education Agency. To learn more about the full scope of this agency's work go to their website at http://www.tea.state.us/

The TEA is mandated to ensure that all Texas students are provided a free and appropriate education. The TEA helps to monitor the effective implementation of the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as state and commissioner rules and regulations regarding special education services. We are fortunate in Texas to have people in the agency designated to address issues specifically related to vision or hearing impairments. Marty Murrell assists the state in advocating for and creating quality services for students who are visually impaired and/or deafblind. Sha Cowan assists the state in advocating for and creating quality services for students who are deaf and hearing impaired, and supports efforts for students with deafblindness.

There are a wide array of agencies with special roles in assisting the child with a visual impairment and/or deafblindness and their families. More information is available on each at the websites noted above. We hope you will explore further, to ensure that your child is receiving the most appropriate education possible!


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Last Revision: July 30, 2002