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

Building a Foundation of Confidence

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: News & Views, blind, visually imparied, deafblind, Division for Blind Services, DARS, disability, confidence, self-esteem, services

As I have crisscrossed the state speaking to consumers and parents about developing confidence and self-esteem in their children who are blind and visually impaired, I have been encouraged and inspired by the welcoming and enthusiastic response to this message. Parents across the state have told me, and then told me again, how much they desire for their children to be challenged to meet their potential, to become confident and independent, and to contribute to the community. And, inevitably, I have encountered the question, "But what does DBS do, and how can it help me and my child?"

Well, to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Let me count the ways…."

DBS has two programs that serve youth and children, the Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program (BCVDDP) - or the Children's Program - and the Transition Program.

As you can tell by the name of our Children's Program, we believe in encouraging and preparing for the future and for the world of work from an early age. Preschool children understand that their parents go to work and they begin talking about what they will do when they grow up. So our Children's Program works with families to cultivate a positive adjustment to blindness and good communication and independent living skills that will foster confidence and independence as well as contribute to the child's vocational potential.

The Blind Children's Specialist works with each child and family to create a plan of services that is tailored to the child's unique needs and circumstances. The Specialist works in partnership with the family and extended family, school personnel, doctors, therapists, and others in the community who provide assistance, services, and/or supports to the child.

The Transition Program focuses on preparing for the youth's future transition from school to adult life. Transition planning is student-centered and involves collaboration between the student, the family, the school system, and any other support systems available to the youth and family. Transition services bring together resources and supports that promote the achievement of independence and vocational success; the earlier planning can be initiated, the sooner supports and services can be coordinated to achieve the goals of the student.

The Division for Blind Services starts early transition planning for students beginning at age ten. Although age ten is the targeted age for referral to the Transition Program, children who are developmentally delayed or more severely impaired may remain in the Children's Program until they have attained the developmental milestones necessary to benefit from the Transition Program.

Both the Children's Program and the Transition Program offer a wide range of services associated with six major skill areas. We think of them as stepping stones to an independent, productive, and satisfying life.

Services Associated with Six Major Skills Areas

Adjustment to Blindness

Blind Children's Specialists and Transition Counselors familiarize families with diagnostic procedures, medical treatments, and other things they need to know to support their child. Other services are designed to equip the youth with coping and self-advocacy skills to boost their confidence and self-esteem as they adjust to living with a visual impairment.

Independent Living (IL) Skills

IL services promote independence and self-sufficiency as the youth grows and matures. DBS and the family identify services that support the child in being as independent as possible in everyday life.

Communication

With strong communication skills, youth who are blind or have a visual impairment can thrive at home, in school, and in the community. DBS promotes development of a variety of skills including reading, writing, and using Braille; using assistive technology; accessing information; and other communication techniques.

Travel

Youth who are blind or have a visual impairment must develop orientation and mobility skills to safely navigate and explore the world around them.

Support Systems

DBS helps youth 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.

Vocational Discovery and Development

For a child with a vision disability, vocational discovery begins at an early age and involves the whole family. In order to grow into independent, confident, and productive adults, the children learn problem-solving and organizational skills. DBS assists youth in career exploration and vocational development.

But what does this mean in terms of services? Again, let me count the ways. DBS staff provides ongoing evaluations to determine changes in vision and/or service needs. They provide individual and group skills training in a variety of areas such as social skills development, technology, advocacy, and independent living skills. They share knowledge and expertise by developing workshops and conferences, often in collaboration with the local ESC or other community resources. They can provide information and training to support the family in understanding their rights and responsibilities throughout the educational process, including attendance at ARD meetings or on-site educational observation and consultation with teachers and other education professionals. They assist in developing connections to support groups for youth, parents, and siblings and to mentoring relationships with peers and adults. They develop summer work activities and programs for older youth, including individual or group training for students and families (e.g., Braille, social/behavioral skills for vocational success, using technology, accessing information, advocacy skills, career exploration, job readiness workshops, etc.). They provide literature and training materials, information about assistive technology and developmental equipment, and referrals to other resources. The family's economic resources, the responsibilities of the child's educational program, and the availability of comparable benefits and resources are considered during the purchase of services.

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 2 | Building a Foundation of Confidence Part 3


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Last Revision: September 1, 2010