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Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Lauren Newton, Principal, TSBVI Special Programs

Abstract: Information on 2009 TSBVI Summer School sessions is available online.

Key Words:  News & Views, TSBVI, Summer programs


Applications for Summer School 2009 at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired are due on February 14. Programs are available for students ages 6–22—including Life Skills programs, Functional Academic programs, Academic programs, and Work Programs. For a detailed description of our programs, go to: .

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Kayleigh Joiner, Student, Pearland, TX

Abstract:  In this article, Kayleigh Joiner describes her experience in the college preparatory class at TSBVI.

Key Words:  blind, visual impairment, disability, college preparation, TSBVI, short-term programs


Hello, my name is Kayleigh Joiner. I am a junior in high school in Pearland, Texas, where I participate in some advanced placement classes.  This fall I attended the five-day college prep class in the Short-Term Programs at TSBVI. Before I came to the class, I was very nervous about the whole college experience. I knew nothing about what to expect in college. While I attended the class I learned about the different organizations and agencies that are out there to help blind and visually impaired students. I also learned about the offices for students with disabilities and what they can help you with in college. My mind was opened up to what college life is like by getting to talk with college students, some with disabilities. We got a chance to explore some online sites that had different things like applications for colleges (with due dates) and technology available for the blind and visually impaired.

We got a chance to tour three very different college campuses. We got to tour the University of Texas in Austin, Houston-Tillotson (a private college), and Austin Community College. We got a chance to talk with their office for students with disabilities people and find out what they could help with. Touring these campuses gave me a better idea of what type of college I want to attend.

Although I missed a week of school to attend this class, I looked at it as giving me knowledge about my future and that is extremely important. The workload was huge, but the payoff is great. This class has helped broaden my knowledge of college and helped decrease a little of my nervousness about it. I would recommend this class to all students that are considering attending college. You won’t regret it!

Editor’s note:  Short-Term Programs offer an array of classes for academic students throughout the school year.  The classes range from 3 to 5 days in length and address a wide range of topics related to the Expanded Core Curriculum for academic students with visual disabilities.  For more information about our programs, go to: <>.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By William “Bill” Daugherty, Superintendent,
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract:  Superintendent Daugherty discusses the decision-making process as students and families consider “the college question.”

Key Words:  blindness, visual impairment, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, Superintendent Bill Daugherty, post-secondary education, college


A sometimes-heated discussion between parents and educators in our business is the question of whether or not college is in the future for a particular young person.  This happens most often around students who, for whatever reason, have not made typical grade-by-grade progress in the general curriculum.  Parents view their children going to college as a rite of passage into adulthood as much as they view it as an educational or career path. Educators sometimes view going to college as a straight trajectory of prerequisite academic preparation combined with a solid plan for what a student wants to do for living.  Sometimes it’s hard for these two groups to get on the same page.  Fortunately, both are advocates for the child, and both want what’s best.

Ever heard an educator say “College is so unrealistic for Johnny”? Ever heard a parent say “The school doesn’t recognize Johnny’s talents that could be built upon to make college a realistic option”?  Somewhere along the line as parents and schools work together on a child’s future, we sometimes begin to get a disconnect on what adulthood will look like, and this can really come into focus as decisions are made about the amount of school time devoted to the skills of daily living and the time devoted to academics.

It’s true that academic knowledge and skills without the skills of daily living is an incomplete package, and it is equally true that the skills of daily living—how to dress, cook and clean for basic examples—won’t necessarily pay the rent.  We should be looking for that sweet spot for each child where these two critical parts of life are in the best balance that can be achieved.

Parents, we have to really look at our children as the individuals they are and do our best not to project our plans and aspirations upon them in ways that ignore who they are as people. On the other hand, I do this projection all the time with my own kids, and occasionally I’m even successful in accomplishing something good for them.  More often I’m not. Educators, we’ve got to become very well versed in the many forms college and post-high school education takes.  There are alternative routes and versions of the college experience that can accomplish much of what students lacking the typical entrance criteria want to achieve. We have to start early on helping parents and their children explore these options, and many of us are not familiar with what the options are.

Mostly we’ve got to listen to each other and we have to listen to the children and students for which we share a common advocacy.  We have to know what’s out there in terms of options, and we have to get united on action that addresses the many gaps and voids we know exist.  The education system in Texas—TSBVI, ESCs, ISDs—and the adult services system—DARS/DBS—are working together on the issue of transition to adult life more than ever before.  Those of us in the middle of it know just how difficult it is for the non-typical learner to locate an appropriate post-high school experience and to be successful in it.  Our partnering with the community colleges to develop, and fund, new opportunities for this group of students is essential.  Parents, your voice and advocacy on this front is the most powerful and influential tool we have.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

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

Abstract:  this article discusses DBS services that are available to students preparing for or attending college.

Key Words:  blind, visually impaired, Division for Blind Services (DBS), college, university, post-secondary education, bachelor’s degree, training, career exploration, employment


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, over 60% more than those with only a high school diploma.  Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between a high school graduate and someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher is more than one million dollars.  In addition, in an article in the Austin American Statesman, Denise Trauth, President of Texas State University, states that 90% of the fastest growing jobs in the country require some form of post-secondary education and two-thirds of the new job types created over the next decade will require a bachelor’s degree or higher.  Certainly, the decision to pursue higher education is a wise choice, and the Division for Blind Services offers many opportunities to support individuals who are preparing for or attending college.

Our support for individuals and families often begins in childhood, as a primary focus of our Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program is to ensure that parents maintain high expectations when setting future goals for their children with visual impairments.  Specialists in our Blind Children’s Program recognize how important it is for children with visual impairments to develop foundation skills in the areas of independent living skills, communication skills, social skills, travel skills, and adjustment to blindness.

Vocational preparation becomes more directed in the Transition Program which serves youth ages 10 to 24.  At each stage of the student’s development, DBS provides vocational services that will prepare the student to become gainfully employed as an adult.

During elementary and early middle school, Transition services focus on providing opportunities to develop independent living skills and interpersonal skills.  Summer camp is an excellent way for students to develop independence and social skills, as is dance class, music lessons or martial arts classes. Students at this age are also provided opportunities for career exploration to build their knowledge of jobs and career expectations.  Children’s Specialists and Transition Counselors can assist consumers and families in locating events and activities that meet the unique needs of each child.

As youth reach later middle school and high school, they begin to increase their personal responsibilities and independent living responsibilities.  They begin to learn about themselves and develop their own personal way of thinking and accomplishing tasks.  At this time, DBS focuses on providing opportunities to experience an employment lifestyle.  Volunteer work experiences, part-time employment, and participation in the community allow the student to gain independent living skills and learn about his or her own strengths, preferences, and interests.  Transition Counselors work closely with parents, Teachers of the Visually Impaired, and community providers to develop opportunities that will assist the student in identifying his or her unique strengths, priorities, abilities, and interests.

The student and DBS Counselor work together to identify career options that are consistent with these strengths, abilities, and interests and to identify experiences that will further enhance the student’s knowledge of their selected career, such as informational interviews or job shadowing.  The student may also participate in evaluations and assessments to help determine the nature and scope of services required to meet an identified career goal.  As a result of this collaboration, the student and counselor may jointly determine that academic training would be the most appropriate service to help achieve the chosen goal.

In most cases, academic training is provided through Texas public tax-supported colleges and universities.  State legislation provides free tuition for individuals who are legally blind to attend any public college or university.  Before registration, DBS will provide a Certificate of Blindness which excludes the individual from registration fees and other fees.

Other academic services include provision of books and supplies, reader services, Recording for the Blind services, tutorial services, and appropriate equipment and technology.  As with all DBS services, both counselors and consumers have responsibilities in this process.  Consumers are expected to utilize any and all benefits available toward the provision and cost of planned services, such as PELL Grants and disability service offices on college campuses.  It is very important early in the process for consumers who have been accepted into a university to apply for available PELL Grants, as these grants can be used to pay for books and other academic-related costs.  Consumers would also be encouraged to apply for scholarships, and DBS would provide information regarding available scholarships, such as those available through the American Council of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, the Lion’s Club, and others.

Consumers are expected to maintain a full course load, as defined by their specific college or university, although there are some minor exceptions.  An incoming freshman may choose to take a reduced load for the first two regular semesters.  A graduating senior, as well as individuals attending summer school, may also maintain less than a full course load.  Students are expected to show continual progress toward completing their degree program, so they are expected to maintain a 2.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) for each semester.

The academic journey can be fun, exciting, challenging, and demanding.  Students have the opportunity to learn more about themselves and the world and to meet interesting people from different places and cultures.  They have the opportunity to explore their chosen field of learning and to learn about unfamiliar areas of study.  They will be exposed to events and situations that will test their coping skills and (if their parents find out) the coping skills of their parents.  It is no ordinary time in the life of an individual, and DBS is proud to be a part of it.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Elizabeth Eagan Satter, CTVI,

Federal Way School District, Federal Way, WA 

Abstract: the author discusses college preparation issues for students with visual impairments, and how teachers of students with visual impairments can support their students in the college preparation and admissions process.

Keywords: visually impaired, college preparation, college admission


As a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), part of the job description includes supporting students in making the next step in their education, as well as transitioning them into life as an independent adult. College is a natural and expected step for many students. The student has the grades and all the book sense, knows how to use his or her equipment, and has a desire to go. Is that enough? Uh, no…

When should you start preparing for college? For students with a disability, it is my personal belief that one can’t start soon enough. The student should make a list of what they are good at, what they like to do, and what they feel are their strengths. (See below.)

Once their list is made they have a starting point to talk with their counselor at school and their family at home.  The College Board website has an excellent article entitled “Twenty Questions to Ask Your School Counselor” <>. These questions can assist the student by empowering them in their discussions with their counselor.

Sample of list completed by a student

What I do well at school

Using my Braille Note




Using the computer

Communicating with people

Driving my TVI crazy

What I like to do

Listen to music

Playing the drums

Read science fiction


Hang out with friends



My overall strengths

Playing the drums

I can explain my disability to others

Expressing myself

Soliciting help when needed

I know who I am

I can make simple meals


The student must focus on their education, achieving high grades since once the student enters high school, each grade counts as part of the overall grade point average (GPA) that will help with obtaining scholarships and entry into college. Along with working on keeping grades up, there are things that need to be done every school year. At the end of this article is a suggested list of tasks to complete each grade level in high school.

We all have heard that colleges/universities are looking for well-rounded students. But what does that mean? A well-rounded student has good grades and is active in extracurricular activities including clubs, sports, and volunteer or work opportunities. Colleges want to know more about a student than the GPA. They want to see that a student has real world experience and was involved in school life and community activities.

The key to going to college is to be first prepared for college. If students are used to having things done for them, and do not know how to do things like their laundry, for example, college life will be a trial. Going away to camps or short term classes like those at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a great way for the students to experience life in a sheltered way apart from their families.

Knowing oneself is of utmost importance. Student must know their strengths and weaknesses, who to turn to for help, and what they want out of life in order to find success. If students are unsure of themselves, or unable to care for themselves, success is going to seem like a foreign land that requires a passport they don’t have.

We as TVI’s need to help our students by giving them the tools they need to succeed. We need to work cooperatively with the school counselors, the parents, COMS, transition counselors, and anyone else the student has on their educational team. Because for many of our students it’s “Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s off to college they go!”

High School Student Checklist

Freshman Year

___ Develop/Maintain good study habits

___  Develop/Maintain good organization

___ Know and carry modifications

___  Visit guidance counselor/college corner

___  Develop 4 year academic plan

___  Attend college information fairs

___  Attend & participate in ARD/IEP meetings

___  Connect with Transition Counselor with DBS

___  Participate in extra-curricular activities/clubs

___  Access/Use CareerConnect

___  Volunteerism

___  Paid work experiences

___  Investigate Transition Tote Bag (available from APH on quota funds)

___  Connect with a mentor in an

upper grade in high school or college

___  Know equipment (name, help desk number, where to go for repairs, manufacturer, etc)


Sophomore Year

___  Take the PSAT

___  Know and carry modifications

___  Visit guidance counselor/college corner

___  Meet with college representatives

___ Update the 4 year plan

___ Attend college information fairs

___ Attend & participate in ARD/IEP meetings

___  Participate in extra-curricular activities/clubs

___ Access/Use CareerConnect

___  Transition Tote Bag (available from APH on quota funds)

___ Work on essay writing

___ Interview/job shadow a professional  in chosen field

___  Do own laundry

___ Cook simple meals

___ Shop for self (i.e. clothing, groceries)

___  Open bank account

___  Start to budget monthly expenses


Junior Year

___  Register/Take the ACT/SAT:I/SAT:II

___ Know and carry modifications

___ Update the 4 year plan

___  Research/Complete scholarship applications

___ Attend college information fairs

___ Tour colleges/universities

___ Attend & lead ARD/IEP meetings

___  Participate in extra-curricular activities/clubs

___ Access/Use CareerConnect

___  Transition Tote Bag (available from APH on quota funds)

___  Meet with counselor each grading cycle

___  Research college choices

___  Obtain copy of transcript

___  Order class ring, optional


Senior Year

___  Pay senior dues

___ Know and carry modifications

___ Complete college applications

___ Complete FAFSA application

___ Visit guidance counselor/college corner

___  Review  4 year academic plan

___  Take/Retake the ACT/SAT:I/SAT:II

___ Attend & lead ARD/IEP meetings

___ Participate in extra-curricular activities/clubs

___  Access/Use CareerConnect

___  Transition Tote Bag (available from APH on quota funds)

___  Request transcripts to be sent with college application

___ Request transcripts with final grades to be sent to college

___ Meet with counselor often in regards to grades, transcripts, colleges, etc.

___ Ask for recommendations fromteachers to be sent to college choices, provide stamped envelope

___ Apply for housing

___  Order cap & gown, graduation announcements, etc.

___  Complete all graduation requirements



Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Elina Mullen Ed.D. CAPE, Adapted Physical Education Teacher,
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: An Adapted Physical Education Teacher who works at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired describes her work with students with visual impairments and additional disabilities, and with college Kinesiology students.

Keywords: Adapted Physical Education, visual impairment, multiple disabilities, college practicum.


How does it feel to be in a school as a new or emerging teacher? How does it feel to be teaching adapted physical education in a “special school”?

Eighteen years ago I walked into Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as an adapted physical educator.  At first I was overwhelmed by the myriad of disabilities I encountered in one classroom, in one lesson!  It felt like I had fallen overboard into a stormy sea, knowing how to swim, but not knowing where to go. But I learned more about these disabilities, and so began the journey I share with you.

Texas School for the Blind is an excellent environment for a teacher to gain knowledge and build upon one’s skills.  The staff development training and on campus courses helped me assimilate my knowledge and experiences into workable units.

Communication is the key to a teacher’s success, and the level and modality is of great importance.  This is where I put into practice the van Dijk system I had learned about in college.  I also got to use sign language and infuse all other related knowledge into how I worked with my students.

My field is adapted physical education.  Thinking of the time it took me to settle into my job, I made contact with the Kinesiology Department at the University of Texas (UT) and offered the students an internship experience.  The idea caught on and has been ongoing for fifteen years.

During their internship, college students learn the following:

  1. All people have the same needs and wants. Every one has dignity and needs respect.
  2. All my students are unique individuals with special needs.
  3. Any individual can be taught, if you have the patience to wait “years” for the results.
  4. How to instruct at a level not taught in college.
  5. To be consistent and persistent in teaching the same things the same way over and over and over again.
  6. For students who are deafblind, to be able to break any movement pattern down to its lowest level and give it some meaning. An example is, why do we bend down to touch our toes? The answer is for flexibility.  To make this exercise understandable I use:
  • Ten little bright square cards in a box (pieces of velcro at the back);
  • A big piece of carpet stuck on the wall like a window;
  • The activity “Let us play the card and Window game”.

The student learns to pick the cards from the floor, one at a time and stick it into the window.  At the end of this exercise the student has bent down and stretched ten times for flexibility.

  1. To be the eyes and ears of the students while guiding them through motion.
  2. To use the best teaching practices while working with all students.
  3. To make every movement experience so successful and enjoyable that the student wants to return to your classroom.  This motivation becomes so evident on occasions like when a deafblind student stood up during his class activities, went over to his daily calendar, picked out his gym symbol, and proceeded to make his way to the door on his way to the gym.

This cooperative exchange has many benefits, some of which are:

  1. UT students have met a student with disabilities and actually worked with him or her, breaking down fear barriers and preconceived ideas;
  2. TSBVI students have had many more trials at the movement experience, and as a result learn faster;
  3. TSBVI students have peer role models, where applicable;
  4. The positive exposure encourages some UT students to venture into the world of teaching and the field of adapted physical education;
  5. As members of the society, the UT students are able to make educated choices in terms of policy and practices on behalf of people with disabilities.
  6. UT students develop a life-long understanding of disabilities in our world.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Suzanne Becker, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Classroom Teacher, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Austin, TX

Abstract: A TVI and classroom teacher describes how she serves her secondary-level students who are visually and multiply impaired using Lilli Nielson’s Active Learning approach along with other strategies.


Keywords: Effective Practices, blind, deafblind, multiple disabilities, active learning, centers, Lilli Nielsen


I’ve been a TVI and classroom teacher at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) since the 2001 school year.  My classroom is designed for older students (13-22 years) with severe multiple impairments who are functioning below three years of age across most developmental skills (i.e.: emotional development, fine and gross motor skills, object perception, communication, etc.).  My teaching has been guided primarily by the educational approaches of Lilli Nielsen (using “Active Learning” and evaluating skills with the Functional Schemes Assessment), Barbara Miles (engaging in conversations with students based on their topics, and being extremely sensitive to the communication of our hands), and Jan van Dijk (interacting with students using meaningful calendars, resonance activities and consistency).

This type of programming existed at TSBVI for students with severe impairments of elementary school age, and I advocated expanding it to include at risk students at the secondary level.  I did so by writing a proposal to TSBVI administration in 2006, and received a grant in 2007 from the A+ Federal Credit Union to support the program.

I was led to develop this approach by a student who came to the school in 2003 at 17 years of age with many challenges to his learning.  He had a neurological disorder resulting in cortical visual impairment (CVI) and central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), which means his brain had difficulty making sense of visual and auditory information; cerebral palsy impacting mobility on his right side causing fatigue so he’d sit down often and use a wheelchair for long distances; autism; a speech impairment; and a seizure disorder monitored by high doses of medication administered during meals.  He also came with well-established behaviors, including self-abuse (dropping to the floor and head banging) and aggression (throwing, biting, head-butting and pinching).

The medical conditions this student had, and those of other students I have since taught, create a tremendous amount of confusion, pain, frustration and disruption in their lives, leaving the students in little control of their bodies and the events that happen to them.  I’ve worked hard to empower the students and let them be in control of their learning experience as much as possible. To do this, I’ve structured the classroom into distinct learning environments or centers differentiated from one another by themes, the materials stored there, the seating arrangements (tables/chairs, couches, beanbags, rugs), and the physical landmarks dividing them. This organization has helped my students make associations between the centers and the interactions, activities, materials and sensory experiences that occur in each.

The centers derive from natural occurring themes in the student’s lives.  These include:

 Image 1: A calendar center that includes an area with each student’s communication system located nearest to the door, where we communicate about past, present and/or future events.


A hygiene center with soaps and lotions of various smells and different sized containers, toothpastes and toothbrushes, hairbrushes, sponges, foot baths and hand dryers.

Image 2: a kitchen or cooking center which includes utensils such as measuring cups, stirring spoons, mixing bowls, cups, placemats, appliances such as a microwave and refrigerator,  as well as supplies such as food, spices.

Kitchen Center

A clothing center with a standing closet rack upon which clothing of various textures hang, as well as hats, jewelry, shoes and fabrics.

Image 3: sensory centers including a tactile vibration area with vibrating pillows of various sizes, and acoustic musical instruments; and an electronic visual/auditory center which contains the beloved keyboards, CDs and cassette players, light boxes and computer.


Image 4: a vocational center that includes a can crusher, cans, trash receptacle on wheels, plastic bags, a broom, watering cans, smooth stones, planters, shovels, scoops, water hoses, paint rollers, dusters, mop heads and containers with lids.

Vocational Center

A gross motor center with a swing, mats, scooter boards, roller skates, and rocking chair.

Image 5: a throwing center with balls of various shapes, sizes, colors and weights, plastic bottles with different materials on the inside and textures glued to the outside.












 In my earlier teaching days, I was in a smaller classroom equipped with one table where activities of very different topics took place: cooking, hygiene, vocational.  Some activities were in a one-on-one setting and some a group setting.  While each activity was differentiated by its own object symbol, the students taught me that conducting many activities in one place caused them confusion, stress and distrust, resulting in behaviors like shutting down, body or hand tension, hitting, leaving the area, or dropping to the floor.  In my attempts to be efficient in a small space, I was also controlling access to materials by keeping them in storage bins and determining when they would make an appearance based on the schedule I created.

When I moved to a larger classroom, I released control of the materials and the time frame in which to use them and gave the students more freedom to explore.  I scheduled students’ time in the various centers based on their interests, preferences, and sensory needs. I observed the actions they performed with their hands and bodies, with various materials, and with other adults, keeping a pen and paper (and at times a video camera) handy to document and make changes as needed.  I noticed students initiating more actions by reaching out and moving their bodies with greater independence, increasing their motor skills in the ways they handled objects, and increasing their social and emotional skills as the time spent in the various centers expanded.  I created a matrix for each student that outlined the IEP goals each center addressed, and hung these documents in the centers so all adults interacting with or observing the students would have a reference of what skills to target.  I also advocated for a more flexible schedule to allow the students time to continue to grow at their own pace.

Based on my observations, I purchased objects for the centers that contained properties I noticed held the students interest. One student fixated on tickling himself—using his apron strings at meals, paper towels in the bathroom, and his pillow when he woke up in the morning.  I made sure to have familiar items for tickling in all centers, and used his attraction to soft materials as a way to get him interested in the less desirable vocational center where I showed him the tickling potential in dusters, a car wash mitt, paint rollers, and a mop head.  Another student, who refused most materials, paid attention to jewelry worn by staff providing sighted guide while walking together.  He was scheduled to visit the clothing center.  We increased our jewelry collection and had interactions with him where we would put on different types of jewelry for him to notice (various beaded bracelets, a springy phone cord on my wrist, metal rings).

A different student with total blindness, a severe hearing impairment, and severe sensory integration deficits was particularly withdrawn. Touch and interaction stressed him out, causing him to drop to the floor and at times try to remove his clothing.  He primarily stood in one place twisting his upper body rapidly from side to side, or sat in a rocking chair with his legs crossed close to his body, tucking his head and arms onto his legs.  He could tolerate being in a center if it meant he had room to sway, but he was fearful of touching anything.  Presenting an object to him was too demanding, so we hung objects where he could accidentally bump into them in the process of swaying.  He felt extremely threatened by interaction, so my goal was for him to allow my presence near him.  I stood and imitated his swaying, near enough so when he chose to reach out he felt me resonating the same body movement as his. Over the entire school year, this non-demanding interaction built trust between us, and that trust helped him remain in contact with me as I invited him to follow me as I then reached out to experience objects in the centers.

When I look back at videotape from 2003, my first teaching year with the student who inspired me, I notice ways I had made learning more challenging for him than it should have been.  I limited his access to objects because I wanted to prevent his mouthing, throwing and banging them. I had an expectation about how he should manipulate objects based on their function. I placed him in group activities with multi-step sequencing and tried to have him share materials with peers.  When he attempted to leave the activity, I responded by trying to keep him in the area, but he was skilled at getting away.  When he dropped to the floor, I focused on getting him to sit back up to keep him from banging his head.

Our second school year together, I realized that group activities were too fast paced and over-stimulating to his senses, causing him to leave the area to regulate sensory input. Also, when he was on the floor, he felt stable and could bend his legs into a certain position to ease stiffness from his CP; it helped when he had stomach pain; and it also communicated that he needed to take a break. I struggled less with him when he was on the floor and instead brought materials to him. I surprised both of us by changing this conversation and it strengthened our relationship.

Our third year together, I was guided to look at Lilli Nielsen’s Functional Schemes Assessment by staff experienced in her approach from working in TSBVI’s specialized elementary level classroom. Sure enough, the assessment confirmed that my secondary level student wasn’t ready to take turns with peers nor was he at the level of multi-step sequencing.  He needed lots more time handling materials of many different properties and lots more practice having positive interactions with trusted adults who would offer him objects, imitate his actions, model object exploration, and accept him for who he was.  His competence and confidence grew!

In our fourth year together we were in the larger classroom and there was now a balance of learning centers where certain activities occurred in chairs and others occurred on the floor.  He learned to travel around the classroom and retrieve materials from consistently stored locations. His self-abuse decreased and he learned to express when he felt challenged using language and actions that we modeled. After having extended time to explore objects, he expanded his actions beyond mouthing, throwing, and banging to also include shaking, rotating, twisting, waving, scratching, and sniffing. His functional use of objects increased. He gained significantly more ability to use both hands, even the one impacted by CP, and increased his visual skills as well.

This student had a huge, positive impact on my understanding of how to teach older students with severe impairments. He taught me to listen to him and his peers with greater sensitivity, and to develop an organized environment with motivating materials, in which students can experience decreased stress and increased learning despite the many challenges of their multiple impairments.


Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Reprinted with permission from the Texas School for the Deaf website:

Abstract:  The National Agenda Collaborative has addressed education reform for students who are deaf and deafblind.

Keywords:  Deafblind, deaf, National Agenda, stakeholders, reform


The following is a history of the efforts for deaf education reform in the state of Texas. The Texas National Agenda Collaborative (TNAC) grew out of these reform efforts and is based on the goals of the National Agenda. The work of TNAC has been encouraged by our team’s participation in the State Leaders’ Deaf Education Summits. TNAC is made up of individuals representing the Deaf community, parents, advocates, educators, early interventionists, rehabilitation, post-secondary education, interpreters, and other stakeholders in the education of deaf and hard of hearing children.

Texas State Reform

After the first State Leaders Summit on Deaf Education in Atlanta in the spring of 2005, the Texas representatives met with Texas Deaf Education Administrators at their biennial conference in the following summer. The National Agenda <> was well received and these supervisors indicated their enthusiastic support of reform in deaf education by immediately creating a list of “Hot Topics” (see <>) for the state of Texas. Many of these topics were carried forward in a stakeholders group that began work in March of 2006 to draft a revision of the State Plan for Deaf Education. This document is a requirement of the state education agency and is described in education code as a “comprehensive statewide plan for educational services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.” The original goal was to align the Texas State Plan with the National Agenda. The initial work of the stakeholders identified fourteen areas for reform (see: <>).

These were then submitted for consideration to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Policy Team in the Division of IDEA Coordination. The TEA Policy Team separated these suggestions for reform into indicators and descriptors.

They also determined that the indicators would be only those items that can be quantitatively measured using mechanisms already in place for current data collection. These four result statements and indicators are among those required by the State Performance Plan for Special Education mandated by IDEA 2004 and are posted on the TEA website as the Texas State Plan for Deaf Education 2007.

(see:  <>)

The TEA Policy Team suggested the remaining reform submissions of the State Plan stakeholders were better described as descriptors or best practices and therefore these do not appear in the State Plan for Deaf Education. Many of the stakeholders believe that these descriptors are critical considerations that must be preserved to accomplish the scope of reform suggested by the National Agenda. Family involvement, the concerns related to low- functioning deaf students, and a myriad of other goals were labeled as descriptors and therefore not included in the State Plan. Consequently, the Texas National Agenda Collaborative has committed to creating a more comprehensive state plan that captures guidelines and standards that would direct the state’s implementation of the National Agenda.

Ongoing Efforts

The Texas National Agenda Collaborative continues to meet four times per year and at its Oct. 2007 meeting identified this year’s priority to be the writing of a comprehensive state plan for deaf education that is truly reflective of the goals of the National Agenda and of the concerns of the state plan stakeholders. Another function of the quarterly TNAC meetings is networking and sharing of information across agencies as well as exploration of potential collaborative projects.

TNAC Members Contact List

Bond, John

RDSPD Coordinator, ESC 20

State Lead Deaf Education,

Classroom Instruction

210.370.5418 IP:


Bosson, Lisa

Retired UT ASL Faculty and

TSD Principal

Representative of TAD,

Deaf Community


Bugen, Claire

Superintendent, Texas School

for the Deaf

512.462.5301 IP:


Crawford, Lisa

State Outreach Parent Liaison,

Educational Resource Center

on Deafness at TSD



Davis, Laura

Co-founder, Texas Hands & Voices



Diffee, Dan

Educational Consultant,

ESC Region XI

State Lead Deaf Education,

Communication Access



Dittfurth, Doug

Outreach Development Spec.,





Elder, Martha

ESC 15, DHH Network Contact

Coordinator, Region 15 RDSPD


Bounds, Betty

Representative for Texas Assn.

of the Deaf


Favila, Alicia

Senior Consultant, ESC Region 10

State Lead Deaf Ed. Services

for 0–5



Feltner, Angela

State Coordinator VR Services for

Deaf and Hard of Hearing,




Johnson, Theresa

Educational Resource Center on




Lomas, Gabe

Owner, Houston Center for

Mental Health and Deafness



Metcalf, Lauri

Department Chair, San Antonio

College Interpreter Training


210.733.2071 210.733.2072 (TTY)


Myers, David

Director, DARS/DHHS

VP: 512.444.5706



Pitt, Brent

Services for the Deaf and Hard

of Hearing,

Division of Coordination, TEA



Poeppelmeyer, Diana

Director, Educational Resource

Center on Deafness at TSD



Smith, Chad

Dir., Deaf Education,

Texas Woman’s University



Turner, Randi

Communication Access Specialist


512.407.3267 IP:

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

by Lisa Crawford, Parent Liaison, Educational Resource Center on Deafness at TSD  Parts of this article are adapted from a 2003 press release from the National Agenda, and can be found at .

Abstract: Parents of children with deafblindness should learn about The National Agenda for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students and what it means for their children.


Keywords: Family Wisdom, deaf, hard of hearing, educational equality, national agenda


If you are the parent of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) you should be aware of a document called The National Agenda: Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. As parents, we know all too well that education for students who are D/HH is far from perfect. Although there are many truly dedicated professionals in the field, there are many other issues that prevent some of our children from receiving a quality education. Inadequate federal and state funding, lack of research, and lack of understanding of the complex needs of our children are just a few of the reasons contributing to this problem. The National Agenda is not a legal document, but rather a series of recommendations based on research and input from parents, professionals, and consumers of D/HH education services and programs. The highly dedicated group of individuals who wrote this document have years of experience, and vast knowledge about the needs of students who are D/HH.

I find this document helpful because I am a parent, not an educator.  It helps explain very clearly why certain educational strategies related to placement, communication, language, and literacy are appropriate for my daughter. It has helped me talk about her needs more effectively with the teachers and administrators at her school, and assists me to help develop goals for her IEP. I encourage all parents and educators to read through this important document.  You never know, you may be inspired to help raise awareness and be a part of the change our children need.

The excerpt below is taken from the National Deaf Education Project website where you can read about individual state efforts to reform deaf education. To learn more about the Texas State Reform, please visit the Texas School for the Deaf website at <>.

The National Agenda (NA) is an historic coalition of parent, consumer, professional, and advocacy organizations involved in the education of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, are working to develop an effective, communication- and language-driven educational delivery system for our children.

Why the National Agenda?

The NA formed for one significant reason: the educational system that serves deaf and hard of hearing children is incomplete and ineffective. Our children, despite their innate abilities, passions, and dreams do not leave school with the skills necessary to be productive adults.


We have known this for a long time and our concerns have been expressed repeatedly and clearly. We do not see the problem as one of individual educators, but rather a larger systemic failure. IDEA was enacted in 1975 and yet the existing system does not understand the central role that communication and language play for our children and how educational and personal growth requires an effective and age-appropriate communication mode and language.


Our colleagues in the blind and visually-impaired communities faced similar frustrations and as a result developed their own national agenda. In 1995 the NA for the education of blind and visually-impaired students including those with multiple disabilities was launched with an endorsement from OSERS Assistant Secretary Judith Heumann. Built around eight national goals the Blind Agenda has grown to include national goal leaders, state goal leaders and a coalition of over 200 endorsing organizations, agencies and schools. Their NA has become the focus of their advocacy and government relations, national, state and local conferences, and numerous articles and position papers as well as websites.


The blind and visually-impaired communities have provided us with an effective example, from which we have taken both inspiration and the general characteristics of their model and have begun to build an “Agenda” specifically designed to meet the unique communication, language, literacy, and educational needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In this developmental stage the NA has been monitored by a small steering committee and an Advisory Committee composed of representatives from CED organizations, CAID, ASDC, CEASD, AGBell, NAD, ACE-DHH and most recently representatives from public day school education for deaf and hard of hearing students.


What is the NA Vision?

The NA is working for the development of a true communication-driven, literacy focused educational system and a national/state/local support structure for parents, children and educators.


Our vision is three-fold: to build a grass roots movement united behind a set of definitive national goals, to establish a local, state, regional, and national NA so that parents, professionals, consumers, academicians, advocates, and others have a mechanism through which information can be exchanged, resources created, and work commenced on problems at those various levels, and to advocate for a communication and language-driven educational delivery system whereby every deaf and hard of hearing child will be provided with a quality, literacy-focused, language-rich education.


What Has the NA Done so Far?

The NA Steering Committee drafted the first National Agenda which include 8 goal areas/recommendations:

  1. Early Identification and Intervention. The Development of Communication, Language, Social, and Cognitive Skills at the earliest possible age is fundamental to subsequent educational growth for deaf and hard of hearing students.
  2. Language and Communication Access. All children who are deaf and hard of hearing deserve a quality communication-driven program that provides education together with a critical mass of communication, age, and cognitive peers, as well as language proficient teachers and staff who communicate directly in the child’s language.
  3. Collaborative Partnerships. Partnerships which will influence education policies and practices to promote quality education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing must be explored.
  4. Accountability, High Stakes Testing, and Standards-Based Environments. Instruction for students who are deaf and hard of hearing must be data-driven and must focus on multiple measures of student performance.
  5. Placement, Programs, and Services. The continuum of placement options must be made available to all students who are deaf and hard of hearing, with the recognition that natural and least restrictive environments are intricately tied to communication and language.
  6. Technology. Accommodations, assistive and adaptive technologies, and emerging technologies must be maximized to improve learning for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  7. Professional Standards and Personnel Preparation. New collaborations and initiatives among practitioners and training programs must address the serious shortage of qualified teachers and administrators.
  8. Research. Federal and state dollars should be spent on effective, research-based programs and practices.

This and other drafts were posted nationally and the NA received thousands of comments from individuals and groups around the nation. In April, 2005 the first hard copy of the National Agenda Goals was published. The NA members have made presentations on the NA at conferences and workshops across the country. It is our intention to have parents, professionals and consumers ultimately craft the National Agenda and together we will implement it.


What Next?

The NA is both a product and a process, the 8 goal areas always being works in progress and reflective of the latest thinking and concerns of our constituencies. The written National Agenda will continue to change and grow. The National Agenda will be working on developing regional, state and local NA leaders, disseminating the current version of the written NA, and working with the U.S. Department of Education and NASDSE (National Association of State Special Education Directors) to further the NA vision.


What Can You Do for the NA?

First and foremost download and read the NA. You should then join the campaign to publicize the NA in your local community. has a power point presentation that you may download to use in spreading the word about the NA. You may also get this power point at .


Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Laura Weber, Texas Parents of Blind Children Vice President

Abstract: The Texas Parents of Blind Children (TBOBC) shares recent board elections and the focus of the organization.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, family organization, National Federation of the Blind, state chapter


When TPOBC formed in the fall of 2006, I was honored to be elected as the first president.  I have really enjoyed leading the group for the past two years, but I recently decided that I would not run for president this year.  I am so proud of all that TPOBC has accomplished, and I want it to continue to grow.

I am pleased to announce the new Texas Parents of Blind Children (TPOBC) Board, which was elected November 1, 2008 at the NFB-Texas State Convention in Dallas:

President – Kim Cunningham

Vice President – Laura Weber

Secretary – Lety Flores

Treasurer – Sally Thomas

Board Member – Dan Sturgill

Advisors – Tommy Craig, Angela Wolf, Emily Gibbs

I think that changing leadership in a group strengthens it and keeps it from becoming stagnant. I will miss leading this awesome board, but I can’t think of a better person to take over than Kim Cunningham, and I support her wholeheartedly.  Kim is immensely qualified and motivated to lead TPOBC, and you’ll be hearing more from her soon.

If you haven’t joined TPOBC yet, now is a great time. Please visit our website at:  .

The goal of Texas Parents of Blind Children is to help blind/visually impaired children grow up to become productive, fully functioning, independent members of society by providing information, inspiration, and support to their parents and teachers. We are also dedicated to providing ideas, assistance, and information that will help blind/VI children with developmental delays and additional disabilities reach their potential.

We want parents and teachers to learn how blind/VI people accomplish tasks without eyesight or with limited eyesight; how blind/VI children can use simple adaptations to become full participants at home, at school, and in the community; and how we can create stimulating environments that encourage children with additional disabilities to be active participants in the world.  Thanks for your support.