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A Selected List of Assessment Instruments and the Type of VI Student for Whom they are Most Appropriate (in my humble opinion)

Test or Subtest

What it assesses

Type of VI Student

WISC - R  -  Verbal Subtests

Intelligence (IQ)

Age appropriate, low vision and functionally blind students in the Fully Independent, Semi-Independent, and Functional Skills categories.

WISC - R  Performance Subtests

Intelligence (IQ)

Moderately low vision students (20/100 or more, and no significant field losses) in the Fully Independent, Semi-independent, and Functional Skills categories. Even with these students, results should be reported only in a way to shed light on problem solving skills.


Adaptive behaviors (e. g. social skills, daily living skills, etc.)





Learning competencies (achievement)

Low vision and functionally blind students, ages 8-16, who fall into the Fully Independent, Semi-independent, and Functional Skills categories.


Learning competencies (achievement)

Functionally blind and low vision students, ages 6-22, who fall in the Fully Independent, Semi-Independent, and Functional Skills categories. Beware of pictures, especially for moderate to severe low vision students or those with significant  central field losses.


Learning competencies (achievement) in specific reading skills

Low vision and functionally blind students in the Fully Independent, Semi-independent, and Functional Skills categories. 

In my humble opinion, this test is well suited to almost any academic VI student. I particularly like to use it with braille readers.


Learning competencies (achievement) in mathematical and measurement skills

Low vision and (with some concrete adaptations such as adapted clocks, adapted measuring devices, etc.) functionally blind students, ages 6-22) in the Fully Independent, Semi-Independent, and Functional Skills categories. 

This test is easy to administer, and affords a good opportunity to assess the way VI students go about solving problems as well as providing a grade level on performance.


Learning competencies (achievement)

Moderately low vision (probably 20/100 or better with no significant central field losses) who are 5-22 years of age in the Fully Independent, Semi-Independent, and Functional Skills categories. 

I really like this test for students who can see, but it's reliance on lots of pictures makes it VERY difficult for functionally blind students.


Learning competencies (achievement); has a reputation for being a fast, "down and dirty" way to assess kids.

The increments in level of difficulty between the items on this instrument make tend to make it very  conceptually difficult for students with visual impairment. 

These huge "steps" often make it difficult to accurately interpret scores. 

Low vision and functionally blind students in the Fully Independent and Semi- Independent categories. Be sure that the appropriate level (Level I or 2) is used for your student.


Learning competencies in spelling

Low vision (probably 6-22 years) and functionally blind students (probably 7-22, with good braille intervention) in the Fully Independent, Semi-Independent, and Functional Skills categories.

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

In order to provide quality and meaningful assessment of individuals with visual impairment, it is critical that we present information concerning issues related to visual impairment in the context of theoretical constructs of tests and measurement. Understanding of this dual framework allows assessment of students with visual impairment in a manner that will lead to improvement in quality of instruction and facilitate identification of other issues that may be impacting the student's ability to learn.

Confusion Regarding Validity

The difficulty of assessing students with instruments that are not "valid" for students with visual impairments has been the focus of recent concerns. This concern appears to be based upon confusion regarding the definition of "validity" and "normative" samples. Guidelines given to assessment and VI staff at the local district must clarify the definitions of each of these terms in order for staff to make the best possible decision regarding selection of instruments.

Validity is a statistical concept that focuses upon the extent to which an instrument measures the skill that it purports to measure. This is a separate issue from the normative sample. Determining whether an instrument is "valid" is a judgment that must be made jointly between the assessment and VI staff. Such a decision can. only be made by looking at the extent to which this instrument is providing us with useful and accurate information regarding the student's ultimate performance.

Our experience has been that some instruments do provide us with this type of information regardless of the inclusion of children with visual impairments in the normative sample. These assessments can present an accurate and useful overview of the student's abilities in this areas. They must, however, be completed with careful adherence to recommended modifications in administration and interpretation that are sensitive to the unique needs of the student with visual impairment.

Continued training must occur with assessment personnel at the local level to assist them in identifying those instruments that do provide a good basis of information. In addition, we must provide VI staff with concise information about modifications in test procedures and interpretation that allow for quality assessments.

Problems With Over-Identification

There are specific handicapping conditions that seem likely to be over-identified within a population with visual impairments. Assessment personnel are not always familiar with some of the specific developmental issues that may be associated with visual impairment and may, in fact, identify a secondary-handicapping condition that does not exist as a separate condition. An example of this would be the presence of autism in a student with congenital visual problems. Another would be the presence of a learning disability in a student that is the result of a change in learning medium.

We must provide clear guidelines to assessment personnel regarding ways that secondary handicapping conditions can be differentiated from the issue of vision. TSBVI has begun efforts to develop specific procedures for differential diagnosis in these areas that we perceive as needs. We are committed to assisting in the appropriate diagnosis of secondary handicapping conditions in order to provide quality instruction that is sensitive to all needs of the student.

Problems With Under-Identification

Contact with local personnel suggests that many issues are often under-identified by assessment procedures. Admission to gifted and talented programs are often denied to students with visual impairment because of specified testing procedures. For example, many districts continue to rely upon measures of creativity that concentrate upon visual-spatial skills. Flexibility of assessment procedures for gifted and talented seem to be quite limited in a variety of districts in Texas. Information and observation indicate that students with visual impairments are likely to be under-represented in gifted and talented programs throughout the state.

The diagnosis of learning disabilities also is an area that has presented difficulties in UNDERIDENTIFICATION. TSBVI is again in the process of developing procedures and guidelines for accurately determining the presence of learning disabilities within a population of visual impaired students. Such guidelines will be available to local districts in order to assist them in identifying this population and in providing appropriate educational services within their local district.

Confusion Regarding Roles of the Assessment and VI Staff

The process of the Comprehensive Individual Assessment of a student with a visual impairment. It requires a collaborative approach that ensures that both the teacher of students with visual impairments and assessment staff confer about their respective areas of expertise with a mutual goal of quality assessment. The teacher of students with visual impairments must provide specific information about the individual child and modifications that must be made. In addition, they must be clear in specifying the unique impact that visual impairment has upon general patterns of development and learning. This professional exchange between teachers of the visually impaired and assessment staff is critical in ensuring that the assessment represents a valid estimate of overall strengths and needs of the individual child.


This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

Tests Specific To Visually Impaired

Test Name

Age Range

Content Areas




Oregon Project for Visually Impaired & Blind Preschool Children (Anderson, Boigon, & Davis, Revised 1986)

0 - 6 years

  • Cognitive
  • Language
  • Self-help
  • Social
  • Fine Motor
  • Vision
  • Compensatory-(Skills that totally blind don’t learn without specific instruction)
  • Yield domain & subdomain scores
  • Designed for children with visual impairments
  • Includes teaching activities
  • Initially developed for visually impaired children who had no additional physical or mental disabilities
  • No criteria for individual items
  • Within yearly grouping, items may be out of sequence
  • Some items do not necessarily have relevance

Criterion-Referenced and Curriculum based

Maxfield-Bucholz Scale of Social Maturity for Preschool Blind Children (Maxfield & Bucholz, 1957)

0 - 6 years

Social Maturity

  • Standardized on children with visual impairments
  • Easily administered
  • Based on Vineland Social Maturity Scale
  • Standardized over 30 years ago
  • Not designed for use with children with other needs

Standardized Interview

Reynell-Zinkin Scales: Developmental Scales for Young Visually Handicapped

(Reynell, 1979)

2 months -4 - 5 years

  • Social Adaptation
  • Sensori-Motor Understanding
  • Exploration of Environment
  • Responses to Sound & Verbal Comprehension
  • Vocalization & Expressive
  • Language (Structure)
  • Expressive Langage,
  • Vocabulary & Content

Includes domains unique to visually impaired (i.e., Exploration of Environment and Orientation and Mobility Skills)

Poor standardized:

  • only 109 VI children
  • questionable criteria for “blind” and “visually impaired”
  • includes 21 children with multiple impairments

  • Low ceilings resulting in inflated scores
  • British terminology unfamiliar

Standardized on Visually Impaired and Partially Sighted

Simmons-Davidson Developmental Profile (SDDP) (Simmons & Davidson, 1992)

No specific ages given

  • Context of Health Care
  • Context of Care giving
  • Context of Intervention
  • Developmental Profile:
    • Self-help
    • Motor development
    • Orientation and Mobility
    • Exploration/play
    • Perception
    • Cognition
    • Language
  • Created to meet the unique developmental and assessment needs of young blind children recognizes that visually impaired children do not constitute a standardized group
  • Equal emphasis is given to the child and context “child as explorer” and “environment as mediator”
  • A supplement book is provided that describes the development of blind children.
  • Effective if only given by clinician well versed in typical and atypical child development and in the unique development of young blind children
  • Must be used with other scales since there are no scores provided



(Stiffman, 1982)

0 - 9 years

  • Motor
  • Perceptual
  • Daily living 18 Sub-scales
  • Language
  • Socialization
  • Assesses deaf-blind & multihandicapped
  • Useful for targeting instructional objectives
  • Based on observations over time
  • Designed for use with children in center-based program
  • More useful after age 2 years


Tests Not Specific To Visually Impaired

Test Name

Age Range

Content Areas




Battelle Developmental Inventory (Newrorg, Stock, Wnck, Guidubalkdi & Suinick, 1984)

0 - 8 years

  • Personal Social
  • Adaptive
  • Motor
  • Communication
  • Cognitive
  • Standardized with good reliability and validity
  • Permits credit for emerging skills
  • Adaptations are compensatory
  • Adaptations for handicapped are post-
  • Inappropriate for totally blind or severe visually impaired
  • Lengthy administration time
  • No credit adjustments for severely handicapped


Learning Accomplishment Profile (LAP)

(Lemay, Griffin & Stanford, 1981)

0 - 6 years

  • Fine & Gross Motor
  • Language
  • Cognitive
  • Self-help
  • Social
  • Easy format
  • Items are age-normed
  • Items are developmentally sequenced
  • No adaptations for visually impaired or physically handicapped
  • Assessment fairly lengthy
  • Score sheet profile is tedious


Early-Learning Accomplishment Profile (E-LAP)

Standford, 1982)

0 - 3 years

  • Fine & Gross Motor
  • Language
  • Cognitive
  • Self-help
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Easy format
  • Items are age-normed
  • Items are developmentally sequenced
  • No adaptations for visually impaired or physically handicapped
  • Assessment fairly lengthy
  • Score sheet profile is tedious


Carolina Curriculum for handicapped Infants (Johnson-Martin, Jens, & Attermeier, 1986)

Carolina Curriculum for Preschoolers with Special Needs (Johnson-Martin, Attermeier, Hacker, 1990)

0 - 2 years

3 - 5 years

  • Cognitive
  • Language
  • Social
  • Self-help
  • Fine motor
  • Gross motor
  • Cognition
  • Communication 25 Sub-scales
  • Social Adaptation
  • Fine Motor
  • Gross Motor

Criterion-based and


Hawaii Early Profile

Et al,1979)

0 - 3 years

  • Cognitive
  • Language
  • Gross motor
  • Fine motor
  • Social
  • Self-help
  • Good visual representation over time
  • Assists in translating findings into goal
  • Scoring criteria unclear
  • Not standardized
  • No adaptations for visually impaired or physically handicapped


Carla Brown/Anne Taylor
Governor Morchend Preschool
301 Ashe Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27606

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

Tanni L Anthony, Ed.S.

Colorado Department of Education, Denver, Colorado, USA

Young children who are deafblind present an interesting paradox when it comes to developmental assessment. Perhaps no other group of children may benefit more from a quality developmental evaluation, while at the same time, no other group of children may be so difficult to assess with an accurate and meaningful outcome.

The developmental impact of both a vision and a hearing loss is considerable to a young child. All aspects of development are influenced. In particular, the skills of spatial orientation and movement skills are affected.

Traditional assessment methodologies and tools are often not helpful with building an accurate picture of the learning style and developmental level of the child with dual sensory loss. The more conventional assessment models support evaluation in a number of environments by a number of professionals who may or may not have communication contact with one another. Parents may or may not be a part of the assessment process in these models.

The result is often a complicated situation of too many people and too little insight on the whole child within the context of the family and home community. This is a scenario that the young child with deafblindness can scarcely afford; good programming and support must begin early for both the child and family.

The assessment process is further complicated by the fact that most developmental assessment protocols were not designed to account for the unique developmental course of the child with vision and hearing loss. A comparative model to children with full sight and hearing is grossly insufficient.

Furthermore, most assessment tools view developmental milestones without regard to their functional relation to the child's environment, nor the qualitative characteristics of the skills; two features of utmost importance to the outcome of the assessment, the child's program.

The Transdisciplinary Play-Based (TDPB) model of assessment embraces two key principles: (a) respect for a team approach including the child's family as team members and (b) recognition of play as a means of gathering important developmental information. While the model was not founded for the exclusive purpose of assessing children with vision and hearing loss, it was designed as an assessment vehicle for children who were not well served within the traditional assessment model (Linder, 1990).

The design of this model invites professionals from all disciplines to work together, with the continual input from the family, to complete an assessment and subsequently build a program for the child. One unique feature of this model is the arena assessment which involves a group observation and assessment opportunity of the child.

Each team member, including the parent(s), is present at the assessment, although only one key person typically facilitates the developmental testing of the child. The role of the facilitator is to follow the child's lead of interest in a manner that supports the display of developmental skills. The team members work to guide the work of the facilitator.

The Colorado Hilton Perkins Project was funded from September 1991 to December of 1994 for the purpose of investigating the use of TDPB model with children with dual sensory loss. Over this period, several adaptations were made to the model to accommodate the unique needs of the young child with vision and hearing loss. These adaptations came over time as the team evolved in their understanding of "what worked" for this population of children.

One significant adaptation was to focus on two primary outcome areas as opposed to all aspects of every specific developmental domain. The areas of (a) communication and (b) orientation and mobility skill development were selected based on community direction. These two areas have also been identified in the literature as key programmatic themes for individuals with deafblindness (Heuber, Glidden Prickett, Rafalowski Welch, 1995).

Each team member contributed their expertise toward these two common themes. As such, a new assessment protocol was developed which included the following orientation and mobility components:

Functional Vision: (a) visual preferences and capabilities concerning light, color, size, and clutter; (b) visually directed purposeful movement; and (c) ability to recognize and use visual clues or landmarks.

Functional Hearing: (a) awareness and discrimination of auditory input; (b) receptive language skills; (c) use of echolocation; and (d) the ability to discriminate, recognize, and use auditory information in everyday situations.

Tactile Responsiveness: (a) responsiveness tactile input (physical guidance vs. self initiated touch) and (b) ability to discriminate tactile input for clues and landmark purposes.

Problem Solving: (a) mastery motivation; (b) object permanence; (c) means end; (d) spatial relations; (e) body image; (f) meaningful use of common objects and tool use (g) imitation (visual and physical); and (h) search patterns and methods of exploration.

Social Emotional: (a) motivating objects for enticement and reinforcement of movement; (b) daily routes for travel that serve a social purpose; (c) social orientation to people; and (d) endurance as it relates to social- emotional relationships.

Self Help: (a) daily routines/routes of travel and (b) orienting self and objects in space for dressing and feeding.

Fine Motor: (a) motor planning body skills in space and related to objects within the environment; (b) tactile and kinesthetic development for being handled; (c) spatial mapping; (d) upper extremity skills; and.(e) grasp and release skills.

Gross Motor: (a) postural tone; (b) voluntary movement; (c) reflexes and involuntary movement upon self- initiated movement; (d) means of independent ambulation; (e) balance and equilibrium reactions; (f) quality of movement indicators; (g) motor skills; (h) adaptive equipment needs; and (i) physical endurance/ fatigue constraints.

Formal O&M: (a) trailing techniques; (b) protective techniques; (c) route travel; (d) sighted guide; and (e) mobility device or cane instruction needs.

The use of the TDPB assessment model was felt to be a viable means of gathering key O&M information for the young child with vision and hearing loss. While project funding has ended, the individual team members continue to use of the TDPB model in their ongoing work with learners who are deafblind.


Anthony, T.(1993) Transdisciplinary play-based assessment: communication and orientation and mobility domains for the young child with deafblindness (unpublished document)

Greeley, J. & Anthony, T. (1996) Play interaction with infants and toddlers who are deafblind: setting the stage. Seminars in Hearing 16 (2), 186- 191.

Heuber, H. M., Glidden Prickett, J., Rafalowski Welch, T. (Ed.). (1995) Hand in Hand: Essentials of Communication and Orientation and Mobility for Your Students Who Are Deaf-blind, Volume 1, New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Linder, T. (1990) Transdisciplinary play-based assessment: a functional approach to working with young children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

by Carol Evans [

A school psychologist asked a question about testing of students with blindness and visual impairment.

QUESTION: I am interested in the intellectual assessment of Blind and Visually Impaired students. Many of the measures normed on this population are quite dated.

What is the current state of "Best Practice" in the assessment of this population?

A Teacher

RESPONSE: Dear Teacher, 

You are correct in stating that many of the tests geared for the blind are old. They also have a number of other limitations, both technical and practical. The Perkins-Binet has been withdrawn from the market and is no longer considered ethical to use. It may be interesting for you to know that the P-B used miniatures for object identification.

This is inadequate because miniatures do not represent real items to a blind child in the same way that pictures represent them to a sighted child. The Blind Learning Aptitude Test (BLAT) was a noble pioneering effort by T. Ernest Newland in 1969. It can still be obtained, but the norms are 30 years old, quite inflated for today's examinees. The printing currently being sold by the publisher has errors in two items which with the help of Alan Koenig, who had an older, more accurate version, and a tactile graphics kit, I was able to fix on my copy. I sometimes use it for qualitative purposes to describe how a blind student approaches a tactile task. I do not report scores. I hope that a revision of this test will be published some day, as did the late Dr. Newland. It needs better (more durable) materials (it is embossed on paper, and wears down after a few uses. It also needs improved layout and better spacing of stimuli and response items.

The Bartimeus Center in Holland has published a test for the blind called the Intelligence Test for Visually Impaired Children. It is said to be based on Thurstone's theory. Standardized on the entire Dutch-speaking braille-reading population of Holland and Belgium (about 156 children) It has both verbal and tactile performance subtests, and is published in Dutch, German and English. There are only a few in this country, and there have not, to my knowledge, been any studies published yet on English speaking children. The school for the blind for which I work is ordering the test now (it is quite expensive), and I may do some doctoral research with it. Opinions are divided among those who have used it. (Some swear by it; some swear at it!)

As far as best practice is concerned, if children are blind (little or no useful vision, learning tactilely), many school psychologists are using the Wechsler Verbal Scale; some also qualitatively describe non-verbal ability by observing braille reading, and other manipulative tasks.

Some psychologists give only the Verbal Scales to children with low vision, even those who are using print for learning. I believe that this practice leaves out an important component of the assessment: how effectively, and how efficiently, does the child use vision?

This question may be answered in part by using the entire Wechsler scales, reporting only the verbal score, and describing the child's approach to, and success with visual-spatial tasks for qualitative purposes only. The purpose of this procedure is to illustrate the ways in which performance degrades when excessive demands are made on a faulty visual system (Richard Russo, School Psychologist, California School for the Blind).

It is incorrect to compute a Performance IQ and Full Scale IQ for these children, as scaled scores have been shown to vary with visual acuity (particularly on timed tasks, and especially on those with bonus points for rapid completion).

Prior to testing, obtain information about the etiology and characteristics of the vision loss, severity, age of onset, and other aspects of the child's medical history. Is it an ocular problem only? Or is the vision loss part of a larger syndrome, with other possible learning and behavior implications? Is it static or progressive? Is hearing normal or impaired? This last is a very important consideration.

You may obtain important information about the child's visual function through consultation with the certified teacher of the visually impaired, who should have performed a functional vision assessment. In some cases the child may have had such an evaluation by a low vision therapist at a school for the blind, or some other blindness agency. If no such report is available, you will want to make your own observations of how vision is being used in classroom tasks prior to testing. Any and all adaptations used by the student for print enhancement in the classroom are appropriate when testing.

The psychologist is encouraged to "interpret with caution" when writing the report, and to explicitly say so, for two reasons:

  1. Some items, even on the verbal scales, have been shown to be biased against children who have very severe, early (congenital or soon after) loss of vision.
  2. You will be using accommodations for access to the materials, which should be explicitly described in the report.

A substantial body of prior research with the Revised versions of the Wechsler scales showed a tendency to lower Comprehension (and on some studies, Similarities and Information) scores. It also pretty consistently showed higher scores on Digit Span (regarded as a compensatory skill).

Those with whom I have communicated in the recent past, who work with this population, say that these tendencies to such profiles are still being expressed in many cases with the Third Editions of the WISC and WAIS, although I have been unable to find any published studies replicating those earlier results with these updated tests.

Carol Anne Evans, M.Ed.

  1. In some cases, non- availability of normative data for the VH
  2. No clear indication or acknowledgement that differences in performance may exist with regard to amount of vision, etiology of the visual handicap, or whether the handicap is congenital or adventitious.
  3. No clear indication that the responses of a VI child have the same cognitive, conceptual, or perceptual meaning or basis as those obtained by normal vision children.
  4. Results do not take into account slower developmental rates of visually impaired children.
  5. An interpretation of the results may not reflect experiential lags owing to limited vision.
  6. Use of time limits and differential scoring systems often penalize the VI child. A low score often is inaccurately assumed to be a lack of ability.

Advantages of Visually Impaired Oriented Assessment Procedures for Non- Visually Impaired Children

  1. The need for relying on informal assessment procedures:
    1. encourages a greater involvement (not subjective) by the Psychologist; additional time and effort is necessary to obtain information from family and involved agency personnel.
    2. minimized perceiving children as an object to be assessed unidimensionally.
  2. The need for determining remedial techniques takes us beyond the point of merely saying what is wrong with this child. Moreover, these remedial techniques are useful for other handicapping conditions; i.e., LD
  3. More liberal time limits encourages the quality of the response, not quantity.
  4. The need to determine those skills that are developing "normally" for a VI child encourages a preventative/promotional approach.

American Foundation for the Blind 02/81


by Carol Evans

There are a number of journal articles, mostly in blindness related literature, which I will dig out and cite here if anyone is interested. What I can start here with is the questions one must ask about the particular child to be tested prior to selecting instruments.

General principles that apply to testing of any child apply here. The testing should be guided by the referral question, and must be administered in a way that does not penalize the child on the basis of the vision loss.

Sharon Bradley-Johnson, a SP (school psychology) professor at Central Michigan, has written books on the testing of BVI children (and also on the testing of D/HH children). They are available from PRO-ED, and are excellent references to start with.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the school psychologist should collaborate with the teacher of the visually impaired in designing the assessment and interpreting the results. The TVI will have detailed information on the child, the course of his/her individual loss of vision, and discussion and reading material on the specific effects of the child's particular eye disorder on vision. There are many, many different eye conditions, and they affect vision differently. Some result in loss of the central field, which affects reading and perception of fine detail. Others result in the loss of peripheral field, causing mobility problems, but leaving reading vision intact in the initial stages. Some eye conditions cause general loss across the whole visual field. Some children have vision that is variable from day to day, in different lighting conditions and weather. Some eye conditions vary with general health.

Some eye conditions are associated with syndromes that have other effects on learning and behavior.

Generally speaking, the visually impaired child, with no other significant disabilities, who has had early intervention, good quality teaching with the involvement of a qualified teacher of the visually impaired, materials provided in an appropriate format (whether large print, magnification, tactile, auditory, etc.) and who has the benefit of a supportive family, should achieve at levels comparable to those of sighted children with similar advantages.

That said, just as there is enormous variability among sighted children, there is also similar variability among the visually impaired. And just as has been said about other populations, blindness or visual impairment does not exclude the possibility of concomitant learning disabilities.

The Wechsler Verbal Scale has traditionally been considered to give results that are comparable with those for sighted children. There are, nevertheless, certain items which may present problems for some types of visually impaired children, particularly the totally congenitally blind. Easy questions involving concrete concepts learned primarily through vision may be failed, while more difficult questions involving abstractions may be passed. Eg. "What does transparent mean?"

The Wechsler verbal scales are generally considered adequate for students who are blind enough that they use braille. For students with low vision, particularly with enough vision that they use vision as a primary learning channel, the Verbal scales alone are, IMHO, inadequate.

Some of the subtests of the Performance scale, however, have timing procedures which discriminate against those with low vision. They allow for bonus points for rapid completion of certain tasks. Some do not give the performance subtests at all. If given, they should not, I mean never, I mean under NO CIRCUMSTANCES be computed into a Performance IQ, and then combined with the Verbal to yield a Full Scale IQ. There is value, however, in administering these subtests for the purpose of deriving qualitative information which can point to appropriate modifications of classroom materials and instructional methods.

Examples of such qualitative information might include the following:

  • "Jimmy was able to correctly complete some of the more difficult items on Block Design, but he required about 50% more time than is standard for fully sighted children of his age."
  • "Tony's performance on Picture Arrangement was affected by his visual loss in that many of the critical discriminating features of the pictures were too small, and of low contrast."
  • "Nancy's performance on some of the items of Object Assembly was slower than that of sighted children her age because of her spotty visual field loss (necessitating head turning and tilting in order to see the full array of pieces) as well as her slower fine motor responses, both of which are associated with mild cerebral palsy due to prematurity."

I find the Stanford-Binet: 4th Edition to be quite useful in assessment of children with low vision, because the only subtest (Pattern Analysis, which is analogous to Wechsler's Block Design) which has timing as an element has such generous time limits that every low vision child to whom I have administered it has been able to complete the designs within the time limits, if they are able to complete it at all. In fact, one or two have demonstrated that their visual abilities are superior to their verbal abilities, and that is important information to have.

There is the matter of making visual stimuli accessible. In a phone conversation over a year ago with Dr. Sharon Bradley-Johnson, she stated that any visual accommodation that helps the child in the classroom is appropriate for testing. Enlarged or magnified materials, etc. Does this violate standardized procedure? Yes, but so does giving the test to people not represented in the sample.

When stimuli are enlarged on a copier, color is lost. That is a problem if color is a factor in the test. A better solution may be to place the original stimuli under a video magnifier.

Every report I write on a visually impaired child contains some version or another of the following idea.

"These results should be interpreted with caution inasmuch as the instruments were standardized on a sighted population, and, certain accommodations were made for the student's access to the visual materials."

I'd like to add a word or two about achievement tests. Diagnosis of learning disabilities cannot be made on the basis of group tests such as the Stanford Achievement Test. It is necessary to administer an individual achievement test, such as the Woodcock-Johnson--Revised. For a low-vision student, I would suggest following the above recommendations about enlargement or use of video magnification. For braille students, the issues are different. About 5 years ago I brailled the relevant student portions for an eighth grade student. I followed the format of the print, with the same number of items per page. I did not have to do the very early items since he was an academically able blind student.

Last year I found that a braille version was available, and ordered it from the source listed in Louis. When it arrived the booklet included a caveat that it was brailled in accordance with the requirements of the agency which first requested it. I found it very inadequate, and had to modify procedures when administering it. It needs revision. So if you must, use it with caution. Examples of its inadequacy include: 1. the crowding of many items per page 2. the use of words to represent pictures which are used in questions involving quantity. An example would be the words fish fish fish on an item requiring the counting of the fish, and similar use of words to replace pictures on other arithmetic items. This will present a problem when using the test for kids with reading problems, as I did. A better way would be to use braille full cells. If the picture items in a question are different from one another, braille X's could be used. No, it does not directly reproduce the pictures, but neither do the words, and this way, the test will test what it is supposed to test (counting, addition, subtraction, etc.) and not reading.

Carol Evans

Nan Bulla

When children with visual impairments are referred for testing to determine eligibility in programs for talented and gifted (TAG) students, assessment personnel and members of the selection committee are often faced with the same challenges as those which are associated with individual assessment for eligibility purposes. That is, typical test batteries contain instruments or test items which are visual in nature or which require a rich background in visual learning experiences.

In regards to standardized testing which is usually required as part of qualifying criteria for placing students in TAG programs, there are no standardized intelligence or academic achievement tests which are developed or normed on the visually impaired population. We are therefore forced to use tests that can be adapted for the visually impaired and then must interpret results with a great deal of caution. As with any other student, test scores should not be the sole determining factor in selecting students for TAG programs, and samples of school work, examples of giftedness, and other informal or subjective measures of creativity must be used. Statements from teachers and parents or other persons who know the child well should also be used.

If a TAG selection committee chooses to insist on a standardized measure of intelligence and achievement, one might consider administering the Verbal portion of the Wechsler scales and then interpret results with caution. For example, some students who are very verbal may appear to have above average abilities when, in fact, they may be bright but not necessarily "gifted". Again, there must be other measures or evidence that the child is truly talented or has unusually advanced problem solving and abstract thinking ability, in contrast to those children who are simply "good" with language.

The availability of standardized group and individual achievement tests in Braille and large print is limited. Additionally, test subjects who use Braille must be fluent with the grade II Braille code. Therefore, if a student does not yet know the entire code, that test would not be usable for that student. Administering the test verbally to the student would also not be valid in that one would be evaluating oral comprehension skills rather than academic levels. The assessor can check the American Printing House for the Blind's website at to find out which current tests are available in Braille.

Regardless of whether or not the student is selected for a TAG program, one should consider several factors that influence the degree to which a student can compete fairly with his sighted peers in the classroom:

  • If the program requires a great deal of reading and writing, and the student does not yet have an efficient reading and writing medium, what kind of adaptations will be made so that the student will not be excluded from required activities?
  • If programs use materials that are not contained in State adopted textbooks, how will those materials be made accessible for the student with a visual impairment?
  • Can the student be provided the necessary technology to produce written work, and if the technology is available, will this "automatically" make the student independent, or will other types of support be necessary? Will the student need additional technology training? The mere provision of state of the art equipment does not necessarily solve the problems of equal access or eliminate the need for support services.

If there are a great deal of visual aids and visual experiences in the daily activities of the program, how will those activities need to be adapted so that the student does not miss out on important information? At the very least, some degree of consultation from a teacher of the visually impaired would seem warranted in these circumstances. Assistance from such an individual might also prove to be useful in determining which skills or behaviors the child exhibits are "normal" and which are truly out of the ordinary.

Bulla, 06/02


A or Acc:

Accommodation; mechanism by which eye spontaneously adjusts to objects at different distances to achieve a clear image.

C, CC:

With correction; wearing prescribed lenses with glasses.


Counting fingers; low visual acuity; used in conjunction with distance. For example, CF at I foot - the individual can count fingers at a distance of one foot.


Diopter; lens strength.


Extraocular muscles. A check to see if the individuals eye can move normally in different fields.

ET or ST:

Esotropia; inward deviation of eye, towards nose.


Fluorescein angiogram; a dye test. Dye is injected into blood and a picture is taken of the retina.


Behind the lens. Examination of the eye to check what is behind the lens.


Hand motion (also known as hand movement); used in conjunction with distance. For example, HM at 1 foot means the individual can see hand movement at one foot.


Intraocular pressure; the pressure of aqueous humor within the eye.

Jl, J2, J3:

Jaeger test; a test for near vision. Lines of reading matter printed in a series of various sizes of type.


Light perception; ability to distinguish light from dark.


Light projection; the ability to perceive and localize light.


Muscle balance; how eyes line up.


No light perception; inability to distinguish light from dark.


Right eye; oculus dexter.


Left eye; oculus sinister.


Both eyes together; oculi unitas.


Pupils; equally round and reactive to light. If optic nerve is damaged the pupils will not respond normally.


Perceives and localizes light in one or more quadrants.


Presbyopia; a gradual lessening of the power of accommodation due to a physiological change which affects eyes after the age of forty.

SS, S, or SC:

Without correction; not wearing glasses.

V, Va, or VA:

Visual acuity; the ability of the eye to perceive the shape of objects in the direct line of sight. Visual acuity is measured by viewing standardized letters of varying sizes and is expressed as a fraction such as 20/20.


Visual field; entire area which can be seen without moving the gaze, normally 180 degrees.


Exotropia; outward deviation of eye, away from nose.

20/20 Vision:

Normal visual acuity; ability to correctly perceive an object or letter of a designated size from a distance of 20 feet.

20/70 Vision:

Visual acuity notation; ability to see at 20 feet what others with normal acuity are able to see at 70 feet. Visually impaired.

20/200 Vision:

Visual acuity notation; ability to see at 20 feet what others with normal acuity are able to see at 200 feet. Legally blind.


Plus or convex; farsighted.


Minus or concave lens; nearsighted.

Snellen Equiv. Meter Units (M System) Metric American Optical Jaeger (approx) Approx Height (mm) Usual Type Text Size 
20/500 10.00 6/150 J19 15.00 1/2-in. letter
20/250 5.00 6/75 J18 7.50 Newspaper headlines
20/200 4.00 6/60 J17 6.00 Newspaper subheadlines
20/100 2.00 6/30 J11 3.00 Large-print material
20/80 1.60 6/24 J9 2.30 Children's books
20/60 1.20 6/18 J7 1.75 Magazine print
20/50 1.00 6/15 J6 1.50 Newspaper print
20/40 0.80 6/12 J4 1.15 Paperback print
20/25 0.50 6/7.5 J1 0.75 Footnotes
20/20 0.40 6/6 -- 0.58 --