Main content

Alert message

A young girl tactilely explore her lunch box.Dear Family,

My name is Kathi Garza and I am the Family Engagement Specialist for the Visual Impairment team of the Outreach Department. 

Children with visual impairment may require specialized modifications and supports in order to learn, communicate, and participate in community activities and prepare for adult life.

Let me tell you a little about our team and how we can partner with you.  

  • We offer free support, information, and training statewide
  • Conversations about family matters, your child's community involvement, school program, and related supports.
  • Provide training for your family.
  • Help you access financial assistance for travel costs to participate in conferences.
  • Explore Family Leadership Training.
  • Help you learn more about special education, family organizations, Medicaid waivers, resources for transition to adulthood, and other needs.

Meet Your Texas Family Organizations (Spanish)

Meet Your Texas Family Organizations (English)

Please feel free to contact me anytime via this online request or via email or phone.  There is no question too big or too small. I look forward to connecting with you soon!

Kathi Garza M.Ed. CTVI
Family Engagement Specialist
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired - Outreach


Bienvenidas, A las Familias de Estudiantes con Impedimentos Visuales

Families are at the heart of creating enriched learning opportunities for children with visual impairments, including those children with DeafBlindness or multiple disabilities. Families are the guiding force behind all life decisions for the child or youth with visual impairments. To help families become confident and effective, we provide information, connections, and training to fit their individual styles. We partner with state and national family organizations, education service centers, and other state agencies to provide a variety of services to support families within their communities.

Families are welcomed to connect with a family engagement specialist to:

  • Talk about family matters, including their child’s community involvement, school program, and related supports.
  • Request training on a variety of topics related to having children with visual impairments
  • Explore Family Leadership Training (insert link to a video)
  • Request financial assistance to participate in training, including funding for travel, lodging, registration, childcare, and meals.
  • Learn more about special education, visual impairments, family organizations, Medicaid waivers, resources for transition to adulthood, and other needs.
Have Questions? Need more information? Feel free to contact one of our Family Engagement Specialists: Edgenie Bellah or Kathi Garza

By Pam Wright & Pete Wright, Founders of Wrightslaw Reprinted with permission from Wrightslaw.

This article with links to the other articles referenced can be found at

Abstract: Special education experts share their wisdom on how parents and educators can work through problems while protecting their ability to work effectively as a team.

Keywords: Blind, disability, family and school partnership, effective advocacy

Editors Note: Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities. To learn more, visit their website at


“Our seven-year old child has autism. After his aide told us that he has not received all the speech language and OT services called for in his IEP, we wrote letters demanding that the school make up the missing sessions.”

“Now the teacher and special ed supervisor are angry with the aide. They told her that she cannot tell us anything that goes on at school. Doesn’t the aide have a right to communicate with us? Is there any law we can refer to?”


The issue is not whether or not the aide has a right to communicate with you. The aide is at the bottom of the hierarchy in terms of power. Is it fair to put her in the position of taking sides with you against her employer? Don’t be surprised if she is transferred or fired.

The school is reacting to perceived threats from you by pulling their wagons in a circle. They are preparing to defend themselves. This behavior is not unique to schools—it happens in any organization when there is a perceived threat from the outside.

As a parent, your goal is to make the school want to help your child and your family. You will not succeed by writing demand letters or waving law at school personnel.

How do you react when another person—someone you do not know well— 10 Family Wisdom makes demands of you? Does this make you rethink your position? If you are like most people, you will defend yourself.



Your child is seven years old. You will be negotiating with the school on his behalf for many years. Your relationship with the school is polarized. You need to work on restructuring your relationship with school personnel.


In our training programs, we tell parents, “Unless you are prepared to remove your child from public school forever, you need to view your relationship with the school as a marriage without the possibility of divorce.”

You need to focus on solving problems while protecting the relationship.


I am not recommending that you stop advocating for your child. I am recommending that you learn effective advocacy skills and techniques.

You need to learn to use tactics and strategies—letter-writing, persuasion, and negotiation.

Begin by reading these articles.

In “Understanding the Playing Field”, advocate Pat Howey discusses trust, expectations, power struggles between parents and schools and how to avoid them, the parental role, and the need to understand different perspectives.

“When Parents & Schools Disagree” – Educational consultant Ruth Heitin describes common areas of disagreement between parents and schools and offers suggestions about how to handle these disagreements.

In “How to Disagree with the School Without Starting WW III”, I answer questions about how to disagree with the IEP team without starting World War III. Learn about the Rules of Adverse Assumptions, how to use tape recording and thank you letters to clarify issues, and how to deal with an IEP team bully.


In most cases, parents should treat information from an aide, related services provider or teacher as confidential. Use it but do not attribute it to that person.

If you have questions about services not provided, write a short letter to request information about the number of sessions provided, dates, minutes. You can also ask to see notes of the sessions. If you find that your child did not receive services that were agreed upon in the IEP, write another letter to the effect that services were not provided, and request information about when these services will be made-up. (See “Using Strategies in Your Letters to the School” below.)

If you use this approach, the aide (or other school employee) will not be blamed and can continue to provide you with invaluable “background” information.


Read the “Letter to the Stranger”— this article may change the way you view the process and your role forever.
I can imagine how you felt when you learned that your child hadn’t received the services in his IEP. But before you write more letters, please read “The Art of Writing Letters” about how to write letters to the school. Learn about the Blame Approach and the Storytelling Approach, the sympathy factor, first impressions, pitfalls, and the powerful decision-making Stranger.

When you have concerns about your child’s program, it is important that you document these concerns in writing. “12 Rules for Writing Great Letters” includes rules for writing letters and editing tips.


As a parent, it’s important to understand that you are negotiating with the school for special education services. In “Learning to Negotiate is Part of the Advocacy Process”, advocate Brice Palmer describes the negotiation process in special education, explains the rules, and offers excellent advice about tactics and techniques.

Consider attending a Wrightslaw special education advocacy training program - these programs are held around the country.

I also recommend that you read two books (assuming you have already read our book, From Emotions to Advocacy!)

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury will teach you how to negotiate “win-win” solutions to disputes without damaging your relationship with the school.

How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence will teach you how to persuade others to see things as you do, understand your perspective, and WANT to help. How to Argue includes great stories about how people dealt with situations similar to yours. Read the story in Chapter 8 about the mother who wanted her county to fix a dangerous road. After you read this story, you will understand what you need to do.

You can get these books from most libraries and bookstores. You can also order them from The Advocacy Bookstore (our online bookstore).


Peter Wright, Esq., and Pamela Darr Wright are the authors of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law; Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy; and Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind. The Wrights built,, and the Yellowpagesforkids. com and publish The Special Ed Advocate, the free online newsletter about special education law and advocacy. Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training Programs are held around the country. To see if a Wrightslaw program is scheduled in your community, look at the schedule on the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. 

tapvi-logoTexas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments




tapvi horseJoin us for games, music and fun!

Come learn about horses and their care.

  • Saddling
  • Grooming
  • Riding

Where: 182 Pope Bend Rd North, Cedar Creek, TX 78612

When: 11AM - 3PM, Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cost: Free to TAPVI Members! Lunch Provided. ($10 per family for nonmembers, includes TAPVI membership.)


Limited space so make your reservations today! Registration Deadline: October 15, 2014

Contact Veronica Alvarez (Habla Español): 972-984-0761 or Joe Paschall: 512-663-2330.

tapvi ranch

Welcome Parents of Children with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness!

As parents and cParent and young deafblind child interact.aregivers of children with visual impairments, you play a critical role in your child's life outcomes.  You are your child's first teachers, greatest resources, and strongest advocates. This Parent Portal is meant to help you find the information, resources and connections you need as efficiently as possible.  We hope it meets your needs, but if you find that something seems to be missing, please share your ideas or concerns with us.

This information is divided into two sections: 

  • for all parents of students with visual impairments or deafblindness
  • for parents of students attending classes at TSBVI in the current school year

For All Parents of Students with Visual Impairments or Deafblindness

Parent Networking and Connections to Resources

You may also contact either of our Family Engagement Specialists in Outreach Programs if you need more information:

Kathi Garza, Visually Impaired Family Support Consultant, VI Outreach Programs

Phone: 512-206-9418 or email to:

Edgenie Bellah, Deafblind Family Engagement Specialist, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Phone: 512-206-9423 or email to: 

For Parents of Current TSBVI Students

Comprehensive (Regular School Year) Programs Information for Parents