Main content

Alert message

Infants and Toddlers with Visual Impairments

Virginia E. Bishop, Ph.D.


In 1991, Region XIII Education Service Center asked me to put together a little handbook for their early childhood teachers, to help them understand the possible effects of visual impairments on early learning. Apparently, the handbook met a need, for requests have come for it from all over Texas, from other locations in the United States, and from early childhood programs in other countries.

In 1996, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired asked me to update the handbook, for inclusion in a vision screening packet. Materials were intended to help early childhood personnel identify young children who might be visually impaired, so that appropriate referrals could be made for medical follow-up and the inclusion of a VI professional educator on the early intervention team.

The title of the original manual - Preschool Children with Visual Impairments - suggests that it is most useful with the 3-5 age group, and many of the ideas for programming are appropriate for that age range. Since there was no specific emphasis on the birth-to-3 age group, this accompanying handbook has been written to fill that gap. It is intended that the two handbooks be used together, since many basic philosophies and ideas expressed in the original handbook will not be repeated in this manual. Moreover, the first handbook may be used as a reference for the second. (See Table of Contents for the original manual, in the Appendix of this handbook.) The two manuals together should provide a continuum of information and ideas for young children with visual impairments. It is hoped that the reader will refer to both guides as needed.


Dr. Virginia Bishop; 4312 Duval St. #206; Austin, TX 78751


P.L. 99-457 extended access to special services for children with disabilities down to birth. Part of this mandate, however, allowed each state's governor to decide which state agency would oversee the provision of services for the Birth-to-3 age group. Some states' education departments were given this responsibility, simply extending their already mandated preschool services down to include the B-3 age group. In the state of Texas (as in some other states), the Department of Health was appointed as the "lead agency," so it is the early childhood specialists working under the Department of Health umbrella of services, who locate, evaluate, and provide leadership in coordinating services for disabled children from birth to age 3.

A "Memorandum of Agreement" between the Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention and the Texas Education Agency establishes a "statewide system of services which ensures that all children, birth to two, with auditory and/or visual impairments, receive services as outlined in Part H of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and subsequent amendments." (from the Memorandum). It is this agreement that creates the cooperative arrangement between early childhood interventionists (ECI), school districts, and VI teachers. It places responsibility for screening and identifying young children with possible visual impairments on the ECI personnel; referral is made to the local school district who will add the VI teacher to the IFSP team when the child has a visual impairment. Not only will VI teachers perform the state mandated Functional Vision Evaluation (which ECI personnel are not certified to do), but they can also do a Learning Media Assessment and contribute valuable information to the program planning process. They can also make suggestions for early intervention activities which can help to alleviate or eliminate delays in development caused by visual impairments. The VI teacher can provide direct and/or consultative services to families & their VI children.

This handbook is intended to help ECI personnel understand the importance of early identification, and how visual impairments may impede development if appropriate intervention is not provided. The cooperative efforts of both ECI staff and VI teachers is essential if infants and toddlers with visual impairments are to have the opportunities to develop, learn, and realize their potential.