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Fall 2001 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Lessons from Geese

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

It was 103 degrees "warm" in Austin yesterday in my backyard. I'm ready for August to end, so I'm taking today to write my fall article for SEE/HEAR. Just the thought of fall makes me feel cooler. Fall is a time of refreshing change and movement. By the time this gets published, classes will be full of new faces, parents will be juggling their work schedules with school activities, nature will be preparing itself for winter, and TCB will have launched itself into its new fiscal year plans.

While looking around for some inspiration for a planning meeting a while back, I came across an article a colleague sent me entitled "Lessons from Geese" - which I've borrowed for my own use today. It's a short article that made its rounds in leadership development circles in recent years. Most sources attribute the work to Milton Olson. Inspired by migrating geese late one fall, Olson says that humans can learn a lot by studying our feathered friends' interrelationships during their annual pilgrimage. The article includes a list of facts about geese and lessons for us. Fact One and its coupled lesson are my favorite:

That last phrase could be an action motto for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) and our partners and allies in the field of rehabilitation and blindness. "Traveling on the thrust of one another" is such a vivid, accurate way to describe the value of these relationships.

Case in point: The Commission and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired are preparing to "fly" together on an important project soon. We plan to initiate a joint program to provide educational and vocational training for those blind high school graduates who still need intensive remediation in order to cultivate the skills, attitudes and opportunities necessary to meet the demands of adult living.

In our August board meeting, Dr. Phil Hatlen, TSBVI Superintendent, spoke to TCB's Board members about the program from TSBVI's viewpoint. Dr. Hatlen stated that an estimated 500 blind or visually impaired students graduate from high school across Texas each year. For varying reasons, some of these graduating students have not had the opportunity to receive an expanded core curriculum that included social, independent living and vocational skills. In addition, for some students, academics may not have been stressed as intensely as they should have been. The program will target these students who need to be better prepared, both academically and experientially, in order to be successful when venturing out into the world of work and the community.

From our viewpoint, studies have shown for years that students with visual impairments have traditionally been at risk for failure in securing employment right out of high school. One study I read a couple of years back reported the dismal statistic that only 30% of graduating students were working in a two-year period following school. To get the program off the ground, the Commission is working out the final details for selling some property we are no longer using for consumers because of its age and upkeep costs. Funds received from the sale would allow four apartments to be built on property owned by TSBVI on 49th Street in Austin.

The dual goals of the program are to provide students with training in the specialized skills of blindness and to remediate academic deficiencies. Skills training will focus on areas such as travel, communication, independent living, personal adjustment, career development and the acquisition of support systems. These components reflect the minimum expectation of competency held for all participants, and are necessary to confidently meet the challenges of adult living. Students will be expected to have the opportunity to live independently, manage their budget, do their own shopping, and access needed community resources - all within a supportive environment which facilitates and encourages self determination and team work. Individualized goals will be developed through assessment, exploration, and experiences which incorporate each student's individual strengths, interests, and abilities. Overall, this program believes in the potential of students who are blind, and with the proper training, philosophy and expectation, dreams are conceived, achieved and believed.

The proposed program received unanimous support from TCB's Board in August, and we're looking forward to the flight with TSBVI. Look for details in future SEE/HEAR articles.


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Last Revision: July 30, 2002