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Fall 1999 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Phil Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

For the past two years, a group of writers has been working hard drafting a new publication called "Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Educational Service Guidelines". The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) is in charge of this project, which has been funded by the Hilton/Perkins Foundation. Dr. Gaylen Pugh was selected as Project Director, and has been very effective in keeping the writing of this document on track. I was privileged to be one of the writers.

I want to emphasize the potential impact of this publication. NASDSE membership is comprised of the special education leaders in each state. They have a tremendous influence on policy and practice regarding educational services for students in their respective states. More specifically, members of NASDSE have the capability of determining educational services for blind and visually impaired students. I also emphasize that we educators for blind and visually impaired students did not go to NASDSE to promote the writing of this publication. They came to us. I have to believe that the members of NASDSE recognize the need for new guidelines that will enable them to serve blind and visually impaired students more effectively.

What follows is a NASDSE news release announcing the new publication. It provides some detail about the content of "Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Educational Service Guidelines". If you do not receive a copy, please order one - you'll be glad you did.

It's Ready, It's Out There!

NASDE and Hilton/Perkins Publish the Blind Initiative Guidelines

In September, NASDSE and the Hilton/Perkins Program of the Perkins School for the Blind disseminated their educational service guidelines for students who are blind or visually impaired. The intention of this guidelines document is to provide assistance to state and local education agencies, service providers, and parents. The document describes essential program elements and features which must be considered when designing appropriate services for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those students with multiple disabilities. A full continuum of options is included.

The process for developing this guidelines document, as well as its format and design, was patterned after NASDSE's Deaf Initiative guidelines published in 1994. The Blind Initiative document is the collaborative effort of 13 national organizations that have special interest in the provision of services to visually impaired persons and their families. Representatives from the major national consumer, advocacy, and educational organizations comprised the writing team. A larger panel of content experts provided review and comment on draft chapters.

The document is organized into five chapters, a glossary, and extensive appendices. Chapter One presents the theoretical constructs on which the other chapters are based. It discusses what educators need to know about the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments. It outlines public policy and legislation that affect these students and their rights to full participant in the general school curriculum. In Chapter One and subsequent chapters, the role of parents as equal partners in the educational process is discussed.

Chapter Two presents the framework for services. It outlines the responsibilities of the state education agency to maintain a unit to ensure the policies, procedures, and personnel are in place to meet the unique educational requirements of students with visual impairment. The role of the state agency in providing adequate and timely resources and appropriate reading materials, along with a full array of placement options, is discussed.

Chapter Three describes the process of identifying and assessing individual needs. It addresses the issues of personnel administering assessments, the need for on-going assessment of student progress, the interaction of functional vision and additional disabilities, and appropriate learning and literacy media. This chapter reinforces the need for parent involvement and the responsibility of the educational system to include parents in meaningful ways throughout the process and decision making.

Chapter Four identifies concepts that must be addressed following assessment in reviewing program options and placement. Educators working collaboratively with parents and students develop programs in educational setting which meet the unique individual needs of each student who is blind or visually impaired. These options allow the students an expanded core curriculum and appropriate opportunities to participate with peers and mentors who are visually impaired, as well as with those who are sighted.

Chapter Five describes characteristics of personnel who will work with students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities, in appropriate placements once they have been identified. This chapter discusses the specialized knowledge, skills, and attributes needed to provide educational and orientation and mobility services to students who are visually impaired. Proficiency of educational personnel in literacy and communication modes (including Braille reading and writing and use of optical devices) and specialized training of service providers in orientation and mobility, assistive devices and technology including Braille, speech, and low vision technology are also discussed.

The Glossary provides an in-depth look at some of the terminology used throughout the document. A user-friendly table of contents assists the reader in locating specific information as some issues overlap and are repeated in different contexts. The Appendices section will provide the reader with valuable resources and more extensive explanation of chapter content.

The document has been distributed to state directors of special education, organizations, and parent and consumer groups by the Hilton/Perkins Foundation. Individuals seeking additional copies should contact the Hilton/Perkins Foundation, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA. For further information on the project, contact Dr. Gaylen Pugh, Project Director, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, (256) 772-4350 or via e-mail at .

Editor's note: There are several new books out that parents and even professionals may want to purchase related to IEPs and IDEA. These books were review in the 1999 Library Summer Selection (a special supplement to Exceptional Parent magazine). We thought you might enjoy learning about these publications.