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Winter 2000 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Joyce Rodriguez, Vision Consultant
Region 2 Education Service Center, Corpus Christi, Texas
Reprinted with permission from VI Newsletter Fall, 1999

Editor's note: The original article was an e-mail response to questions submitted to Marty Murrell, Education Specialist at Texas Education Agency by Joyce Rodriguez, Vision Consultant at Region 2 Education Service Center. It is part of Marty's role to assist districts and staff with questions about services for students with visual impairments. The original response which appeared in the Fall 1999 VI Newsletter has been updated by Marty for inclusion in SEE/HEAR.


I just need some basic information about establishing initial eligibility for a visual impairment. When a student is initially referred for suspected visual impairment, is an eye specialist's report stating that the student has a serious vision loss after correction needed BEFORE they do a functional vision evaluation? I know eligibility is based on the combination of the two pieces of information, but doesn't the eye exam have to state serious vision loss even after correction?

In other words, if the eye exam says the student does NOT have a serious vision loss after correction, then should the referral come to a halt at that point? Or would the VI person still be obligated to evaluate the student (per ARD committee recommendation)?


The answer would depend on whether or not the district determines that an evaluation for special education is needed.

The district determines an evaluation is needed for special education

If the child is referred for evaluation for special education because of a suspected visual impairment, and the district agrees to evaluate, there are two guiding principals related to your question:

First, eligibility is an ARD committee decision, and secondly, federal regulations state that no single procedure is used as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability.

The first step of the evaluation is to obtain the eye doctor report. This should be provided at no cost to the parent. The information from that evaluation should serve as a guide for the functional vision evaluation (FVE) and learning media assessment (LMA). Information from both should guide the rest of the evaluation process.

If the eye report comes back saying there is not a serious impairment, there still must be the FVE/LMA and the rest of the evaluation. These evaluations will either support the doctor's findings or challenge them. If the FVE/LMA indicates there really is a serious visual problem, then there should be discussion with the doctor to try to determine why there is a difference of opinion.

(In Texas, when the vision rules were first developed, the intent was to ensure an eye doctor did not have the final say about educational issues. That is one reason the eligibility criteria does not depend solely on acuities. Remember, the doctor's evaluation reflects how a child sees in a very atypical setting. Sometimes the doctor has limited expertise with hard-to-test children, may have checked the wrong box by accident, or may not realize the significance of his choice.)

Sometimes, with technical assistance from the vision specialist, the doctor will be willing to correct mistakes, or restate conclusions based on the additional information from the district. If the doctor does not change his opinion, but the FVE/LMA indicates there is a serious problem and the comprehensive evaluation indicates there is an education need because of it, the district should seek another eye doctor evaluation. As a last resort, if there is disagreement, but the vision teacher and the rest of ARD committee feel very strongly that there is a visual impairment resulting in educational need, the ARD committee may go ahead and qualify the student. There should be detailed documentation supporting this decision. (Kind of an unwritten Method II for VI!) One would not expect this option to be used very frequently.

The district determines an evaluation for special education is not needed

The district could refuse to evaluate under the following conditions:

  • If the parent brings in an eye report and asks for an assessment for special education because of a suspected visual impairment,
  • and the information from the eye report does not indicate a severe visual loss after correction,
  • and, based on classroom observations, academic performance, and other relevant information, the district does not believe that there is justification for further assessment,
  • then the district could refuse to evaluate.

If this is the case, the district must give the parent written notice of refusal to evaluate. The parents must also receive a full explanation of their procedural safeguards. This will give the parents documentation that their request was denied, so that they can request mediation, file a complaint, or go to hearing, if they so choose.