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A "Cheat Sheet" for New Teachers of the Visually Impaired
Working with Infants
By Nancy Toelle, Coordinator, Quality Programs for Students with Visual
Impairments and Ann Rash, Teacher Trainer, TSBVI, VI Outreach
One of the factors that makes working with students with visual impairments
an interesting undertaking is the range of
ages we serve in Texas. Teacher of the Visually Impaired's (TVI) work with
visually impaired students from birth to age 22. Each age has its own
considerations, rewards, and concerns. This article will outline a beginning
approach to providing services for infants.
The first step in providing educational services for any student is
determining eligibility. Eligibility criteria differ for infants. They are
eligible based on the existence of a documented eye condition and suspicion of
future VI needs rather than on current demonstrated needs. Eligibility is
decided by the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team based on
assessments and the wishes of the family. IFSP = Individualized Family Service
Plan and is equivalent to the IEP, but differs radically in content. If an
infant is eligible for vision services, be sure to go through the typical
enrollment procedure for your district. It is important for your district's
funding that they are included in PEIMS and are on the TEA Annual Registration
of Students who are Visually Impaired.
The TVI's role in determining eligibility
- Receive the screening for visual impairment and current eye exam report
- Perform the FVE and LMA (Functional Vision Exam and Learning Media
Assessment), address the need for an O&M evaluation, functional
blindness, a low vision evaluation, assistive technology and devices, other
services, and identify appropriate learning media.
- Assist with developmental assessment and share with the ECI assessment
staff information about the impact blindness/low vision has on normal
- Ensure that screening for deafness is performed by ECI staff.
- Ensure that a Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)
children's caseworker is
involved with the family.
- Maintain an eligibility folder in the district.
Working in coordination with ECI agencies, TVIs participate in the referral
process, and are part of the IFSP team. We work within their system as an
adjunct to their services.
How the role of the TVI working with infants differ from the role with
students aged 3-22
- Time considerations: The calendar for this process moves very quickly.
Service cannot be interrupted for more than 2 weeks at a time during the
course of a calendar year, unless parent requests it.
- Year-round service: service continues at the same frequency decided upon
at the annual IFSP meeting through the summer months unless a change is
requested by parents.
- Documentation: Service must be documented according to ECI requirements,
with copies provided to ECI and the parent.
- Transition: The process for transitioning to post ECI programming goes
according to a fixed schedule and sequence and starts 90 days before the
child's third birthday. The child may or may not transition to a PPCD
program (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities a public school
program). The program that's selected should best meet the child's needs.
The TVI's role in developing an IFSP
- The TVI helps analyze and share the results of the child's FVE and LMA
with ECI staff.
- It's important to provide ECI staff with information on early intervention
related to vision.
- The TVI must attend all IFSP meetings.
- In an IFSP meeting, parents select and prioritize what they want for their
child. The IFSP is not based solely on assessed educational needs.
The TVI's role in providing services to family and infant
- Bring in information and resources related to the child's visual
impairment, act as part of the instructional team to implement IFSP, enable
parents and other caregivers to follow through with child by "role
- Observe child with caregivers to see what's currently being done.
- Stress from the beginning that change/learning occurs in direct relation
to the frequency of the infant's instruction/opportunity to learn and use
new information and skills.
- Share with the team members the relationship between concept development
and opportunities to move and actively interact with the environment and
- Work as a team with ECI staff serving the student, including the
occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, instructional
staff and case manager. Provide them with your expertise and learn from
- Coordinating team time can be difficult, but working together will promote
a holistic approach to the child's needs. This should include anything from
feeding issues to problems with sleep habits and growth.
- Research the child's eye condition if it is unfamiliar, so you can inform
the team of current or future educational or medical implications.
- As needed, attend eye medical appointments and/or low vision clinical
visits to learn more and help parents understand their child's eye
Resources helpful to TVIs
- INSITE Developmental Checklist Instructional Manual: This checklist
assesses all areas of development. It contains illustrations based on normal
development with adaptations for children with sensory impairments and
multiple disabilities. The checklist can be used by teachers and caregivers
to develop appropriate goals and activities for the parent. Call Hope, Inc.
at (435) 245-2888 or check their website at <www.hopepubl.com>.
- Blind Children's Center Publications: These educational booklets are
written for teachers and parents. They cover topics on nurturing, feeding,
movement, etc. Call them at (800) 222-3566 or check their website at
- Visit the TSBVI website, <www.tsbvi.edu>, and conduct searches for
topics you need. From there, you can access links that contain pertinent,
infant-specific information. You may also want to search the archives of the
SEE/HEAR Newsletter for topics such as potty training, communication,
Little Rooms, and concept development.
Tips from old teachers to new ones
- Hold and play with the baby so the two of you can bond. Make your time
with the child pleasurable. You will be a more effective service provider
and might give parents some useful ideas about bonding with their baby.
- Stress that you are providing parentinfant training as a team: the parents
with expert knowledge of their child and you with expert knowledge of visual
- Shoot for the stars with every infant; maintain an "anything is
- Visit the child often enough to make a difference.
- If the child is not responding as much as you would like, become a
detective and search out possible reasons (time of day you visit, previous
therapies that day, seizure activity, medications, etc.).
- Be reliable about appointments and encourage your parents to do the same.
- Assist parents in developing selfadvocacy skills by providing resource
information to them.
- Play an active role in the child's transition to public school. Coach
parents about the ARD/IEP process.
If this is the first infant you've become involved with, seek assistance from
a mentor teacher. If one is not available, keep in mind that every TVI has a
long list of firsts in his or her career: first braille student, first student
with severe multiple disabilities, first gifted low vision student, first
adaptive technology user, AND first infant. You will feel inadequate, but
competency will develop over time. One of the hallmarks of successful TVIs is
that we seek out resources, conduct research to find answers to pressing
questions, and feel comfortable taking responsibility for jumping in and doing
things we've never done before. The determination to willingly accept that
responsibility is critical to developing the array of skills needed by a typical
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