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Summer 2006 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Building a Foundation of Confidence, Part 3

By Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: this article reviews services available through DBS and how to access those services.

Key Words: Division for Blind Services, DARS, blindness, disability, News & Views, confidence, self-esteem, services

Welcome to Part 3 of Confidence Building, DBS-style! In the last two editions, I have shared information about DBS services for children and youth and how those services support and challenge our youth to meet their potential, to become confident and independent, and to contribute to the community. In this edition I want to continue to share some “real people” stories, stories that I hope will give a vivid picture of our services. How exactly do DBS services help our youth and families meet the challenges of life and to develop and strengthen self-esteem and independence? If you recall, in the last edition I covered the core skill areas of Adjustment to Blindness, Independent Living Skills, and Communication Skills. In this edition I plan to cover the last three of the six major skill areas: Travel, Support Systems, and Vocational Discovery and Development.

(Please note: identifying information has been changed to protect confidentiality.)

Travel Skills refers to a child’s ability to safely navigate and explore the world. The development of basic travel skills begins in infancy when a child reaches for a colorful toy, learns to sit and stand without support, or crawls toward the sound of her mother’s voice. Blind Children’s Specialists may assist families by providing a developmental assessment, attending ECI meetings, or providing recommendations for specialized toys or equipment that foster skill development. Recently I met Mrs. Jefferies, mother of 2-year-old Samuel, who was not moving around and exploring the home. Although Samuel could crawl, parents and older siblings generally carried Samuel everywhere and he had not developed the strength and stamina to walk without support.  He also exhibited some anxiety about moving in space, and Mrs. Jefferies recognized her own tendency to be overprotective, especially after Samuel fell and bumped his head on the coffee table. Samuel’s DBS Specialist met with the ECI Services Coordinator, the VI Teacher, OT/PT and O&M Specialist to brainstorm solutions. The ECI team was able to loan the parent a push toy and, once Samuel had increased his strength and balance, ECI provided an Assistive Mobility Device and O&M training. The DBS Specialist arranged a group skills training with an O&M Specialist where the parent gained information about child development and was encouraged by other class participants to provide opportunities for independent mobility. The Specialist also provided ongoing counseling and guidance to support Mrs. Jefferies as she relaxed her tendency toward overprotectiveness.

For older youth, effective travel skills enable a child or teenager to learn about his community and to join his peers in social activities. In one region, Transition Counselors organized a mobility activity in coordination with VI Teachers and O&M Specialists from the Education Service Center. A group of twelve students met in the local DBS office for a group class on accessing the local transit system. Each student individually called the transit system to obtain route information to the mall, and then the group met to compare information and determine the best route. At the mall, each student was expected to make a purchase before meeting in the food court to order their own lunch. The students then planned a different route back to the office. Training also included how to communicate with the bus driver, how to identify the disembarkation point, and how to manage situations that might arise with other passengers, such as gawking or inappropriate comments.

Another core service area is the development of Support Systems. DBS helps children and families connect with a wide range of community support systems, such as peer, parent and sibling support groups; advocacy organizations; and educational support groups. Specialists and Transition Counselors also provide educational support to parents by assisting them in understanding their rights and responsibilities in the school system and supporting the parent in appropriately advocating for their child’s needs in the classroom.  For example, 9-year-old Norma recently experienced a substantial decrease in vision due to glaucoma; previously an honor student, she was experiencing academic and emotional difficulties in school. Norma’s mother spoke little English and she felt awkward and uncomfortable speaking in the ARD meetings. The DBS Specialist met with the mother several times to review the Advocacy, Inc. booklet, “Still a Good IDEA,” and together they identified primary goals for the next ARD meeting of requesting a new Low Vision evaluation and addressing Norma’s emotional and adjustment issues.  The Specialist accompanied the mother to the ARD meeting; although the mother indicated to the Specialist that she felt very anxious, she was able to participate in the discussion and express her concerns. As a result, the school agreed to the Low Vision Evaluation, and the Specialist agreed to locate a children’s therapist covered by the family’s insurance. 

In another situation, a student was interested in taking a cooking class in high school, but the home economics teacher expressed concern about the student’s safety in the classroom. The teacher was willing to allow the Transition Counselor to attend classes with the student, to demonstrate adaptive techniques to the class, and to mark the stove and oven.

Not surprisingly, many support services are provided through group skills trainings. Many regions facilitate parent support groups where parents can share experiences and feelings while supporting one another in facing challenging life situations and developing creative solutions to common problems and obstacles. Many times parents develop informal support groups after meeting together in trainings or medical offices, and DBS staff supports the parents by providing a meeting site and snacks.

In part I of this series, I referred to the importance of addressing Vocational Discovery and Development, the sixth core service area, at an early age. And in DBS we start these services when the child is an infant! No, we are not pressuring parents to identify a vocational goal when planning services for their 3-month-old infant, but we are talking to parents about establishing high expectations for their children, in the home, in the classroom, and in the future. Early vocational skills include the development of self-knowledge and the ability to identify your own strengths, preferences, and interests. Children also build vocational skills by completing household chores and assuming responsibility for their own schoolwork. By high school, students are beginning to identify general vocational interests, perform volunteer work, engage in job shadowing or mentoring relationships, and obtain summer or after-school jobs or internships. 

Examples of DBS services that address Vocational Discovery and Development are:

Thank you for going on this confidence-building journey with me. These are just a few examples of the many opportunities available to blind and visually impaired children and their families. The Division for Blind Services would like to work with you and your family. If you are currently working with a Blind Children’s Specialist or Transition Counselor but were not aware these services are available, please contact your provider to schedule a meeting. If you would like to work with us and are not yet enrolled in services, please contact DARS Inquiries at 1-800-628-5115 (V/TTY) — let them know you would like to apply for DBS services and they will give you contact information for your local DBS office.

Building a Foundation of Confidence Part 1 | Building a Foundation of Confidence Part 2


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Last Revision: September 1, 2010