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by Marty Murrell

QUESTION: Could you tell us what "not functionally blind" means to you? For example, a severely impaired student who is totally blind or has light perception (LP) who will never be a tactual learner because of severe cognitive and physical issues.

RESPONSE: The term "functionally blind" has a generalized meaning in the field of visual impairments. It is usually related to the fact that a child, even those with some vision, functions as someone who is blind, that is, primarily receives sensory input. However, in Texas, it is a term defined in commissioner rule and it is tied to braille reading and writing. When a child is determined to be functionally blind through the learning media assessment, there are additional requirements and rights for that child related to Braille reading and writing. (See cites below.) In Texas, a child is NOT functionally blind if he is primarily a visual learner and will not need Braille now or in the future.

The primary intent of the rule was to ensure that children who needed braille and braille related instruction, were appropriately identified and received appropriate IEP goals and services related to braille. This includes pre-braille activities, braille readiness activities, or braille reading and writing instruction. However, it became evident that there were a very small number of children who are primarily tactual/auditory, but, because of significant cognitive/developmental issues, will not become readers in any medium. They will not be able to use even Braille labels/symbols in such devices as calendar boxes. To continue to discuss the benefits of Braille and other Braille related topics with the parents and other IEP team members seems to be unnecessary, and in some cases, insensitive.

To reduce this non-productive exercise, a group of stakeholders suggested a third option which recognizes that the child is primarily a tactual learner, but instruction related to braille, including pre-braille activities, was inappropriate at the time of the evaluation and the ARD meeting because of significant cognitive issues. The label of "functionally blind" is not applied so that the braille related requirements attached to the label will not apply. But it would be inappropriate to say that the child was "not functionally blind." This is an option that should be used judiciously and infrequently. It is not a permanent determination. If the child progresses to the point where even minimal braille usage is a possibility, then the term functionally blind should be applied. (Within the vision profession, these children typically would be considered functionally blind, but again, the term in Texas law and Commissioner rules has different implications specific to braille literacy.)

In some situations, it is very difficult to determine through a typical learning media assessment, if the child is functionally blind or not, and if there is or will be a need for braille. In those cases, it is better to err on the side of caution and apply the functionally blind label, but indicate that more ling-term, on-going assessment is necessary before a final decision is made. This will ensure that the ARD committee will have the information about the benefits of braille which are particularly critical when making difficult decisions. It is important to note that when this option is used, the ARD committee should set a reasonable deadline for the ongoing assessment to be completed and decisions are made.

Related References:
TEC 30.002 (f)
In the development of the individualized education program for a functionally blind student, proficiency in Braille reading and writing is presumed to be essential for the student’s satisfactory educational progress. Each functionally blind student is entitled to Braille reading and writing instruction that is sufficient to enable the student to communicate with the same level of proficiency as other students of comparable ability who are at the same grade level. Braille instruction may be used in combination with other special education services appropriate to the student’s educational needs. The assessment of each functionally blind student’s educational needs. The assessment of each functionally blind student for the purpose of developing the student’s individualized education program must include documentation of the student’s strengths and weaknesses in Braille skills. Each person assisting in the development of a functionally blind student’s individualized education program shall receive information describing the benefits of braille instruction. Each functionally blind student’s individualized education program must specify the appropriate learning medium based on the assessment report and ensure that instruction in braille will be provided by a teacher certified to teach students with visual impairments. For purpose of this subsection, the agency shall determine the criteria for a student to be classified as functionally blind.

TAC 89.1040 (12) (B)
A student with a visual impairment is functionally blind if, based on the preceding evaluations, the student will use tactual media (which includes braille) as a primary tool for learning to be able to communicate in both reading and writing at the same level of proficiency as other students of comparable ability.

Required Qualifications

  • A bachelor’s degree from a college or university
  • A certification/license for teachers of students with visual impairments

Preferred Qualifications

  • Certification in visual impairments
  • Experience working with teams
  • Experience educating students with disabilities, either as a classroom or special education teacher

Job Summary

The itinerant teacher for students with visual impairments travels to the students and is assigned schools to provide direct and/or consultative special education services relating to visual impairments.  These services enable the students to learn in classroom and community environments. Services for infants may be provided in the infants’ homes or child-care settings (within district boundaries).  The students range in age from birth through 21, and may or may not have additional disabilities. The cognitive levels of the students range from severely impaired to gifted and talented.

Major Responsibilities and Duties

Assessment and Evaluation

  • Perform functional vision and learning media assessments on new referrals and at intervals as designated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Interpret medical eye reports as they relate to educational environments
  • Contribute to the development of the IEP/IFSP with recommendations for goals, modifications, and learning styles
  • Provide screening and referral procedures to appropriate personnel
  • Recommend appropriate specialized evaluations and assessments, such as for low vision, orientation and mobility, psychosocial, and adaptive physical education
  • Consult with diagnosticians, classroom teachers, students, and parents concerning appropriate evaluations, modifications, and test administrations
  • Be knowledgeable about possible modifications for statewide testing, and arrange for necessary modifications.
  • Obtain modified standardized testing materials (NAPT, ITBS, TAAS, SAT, ACT) and administer or assist in the administration of the test as needed
  • Administer various other evaluations as appropriate (Oregon Project, Insite, Hawaii, Boehme, LAP, E-LAP) and interpret the results as appropriate to parents and other educators
  • Participate in team assessments for students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities
  • Work as liaison with other agencies in vocational assessment process
  • Provide assessment, instruction, and consultation to other educational team members on issues related to assistive technology, especially computer-based assistive technology

Maintain Appropriate Learning Environment

  • Assist in determining need for and procuring classroom equipment and materials necessary for students with visual impairments to learn (braille, low-vision devices, assistive technology, computer, etc.), including ensuring necessary room modifications and lighting changes
  • Provide team members with information regarding the specialized strategies needed for success with each VI student, including those working with infants in non-school-based settings
  • Consult with other educational team members, including parents and rehabilitation service providers to provide information necessary to maximize incorporation of the expanded core curriculum into the entire instructional setting
  • Provide modified materials to team members
  • Provide braille, recorded/enlarged materials, and tactile symbols as appropriate for each child

Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum

  • Assistive Technology and technology skills;
  • Career education;
  • Compensatory or access skills, including communication modes, braille reading and writing, signature writing, and organization;
  • Independent living skills;
  • Orientation and mobility;
  • Recreation and leisure skills;
  • Self-Determination skills;
  • Sensory Efficiency skills, and
  • Social interaction skills

Support Services

Provide assistance to students with visual impairments to facilitate positive attitudes and those of others concerning their visual impairment

  • Facilitate social integration and interaction with peers
  • Provide training and support to parents of students with visual impairments to enhance their children’s independence
  • Provide the teachers, staff, and family of students with visual impairment with information regarding their individual needs, methodology, and strategies
  • Participate with other school personnel and agencies to secure job-related experiences for students
  • Participate in transition planning

Administrative/Record Keeping Duties

  • Provide updated pupil information (e.g., VI registration, deafblind census, textbook projections)
  • Submit requests for instructional materials, conferences, field trips, and personnel needs
  • Inform various special education and campus personnel of progress and needs of the students with visual impairment on a regular basis
  • Identify and set up a work and storage space at each school to be used by the VI teacher to instruct students as necessary
  • Provide input into students’ schedules, planning for all special services, such as direct instruction and orientation and mobility
  • Maintain adequate record of all assessments, related to the IEP, progress reports and signed parental release forms for things such as photographs and registration with various agencies
  • Provide 6-week, 9-week, or 12-week progress reports as indicated by student program on students with visual impairment in regular education classes and follow up with teacher and/or parent conferences as appropriate
  • Register students with visual impairments with appropriate agencies such as Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and the state library for the blind and physically disabled, and assist with referral to the state’s commission for the blind
  • Prepare paperwork as appropriate and attend IEP meetings and IFSP meetings on students with visual impairments
  • Distribute information to parents concerning workshops, conferences, and equipment acquisition
  • Communicate with low-vision specialists, ophthalmologists, and optometrists concerning exams, and attend exams when appropriate
  • Supervise material preparation and acquisition

Liaison between Community and School

  • Provide information about district and/or regional vision programs to the schools and community
  • Provide information concerning recreational and summer programs to parents and students and assist with application forms and procedures. Such activities might include the state’s school for the blind summer program, Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCI-VIS), summer work programs, or special camps, such as those sponsored by Lion’s clubs.

Professional Standards

  • Maintain a reference library
  • Acquire information about current research, development, and technology by attending conferences, workshops, and area meetings and by reading journals in the field of visual impairment
  • Maintain certification


A supervisor will evaluate performance on the job.  Individual(s) knowledgeable in programs for visually impaired students will complete evaluation.

KC Dignan, PhD

Why include job descriptions?

Job descriptions provide a framework for recruiting, hiring, operating, and most importantly, completing performance evaluations.  The job description acts as an agreement between the district and the individual, identifying the expectations of each party. 

The job description should be the basis of the performance evaluation. A well-thought-out job description promotes quality of the VI services. The job description can also provide valuable assistance in the hiring process, helping with the interview and identifying needs for professional development for new employees.

The job description is an important tool in structuring a relevant performance evaluation.  An appropriate and relevant performance evaluation will reflect a balance of those global needs evidenced by all educators and the job-specific skills and requirements necessary for success. The job description is a foundation to the evaluation process.


  • The district will modify sample job descriptions to fit the specific needs of the district.
  • The district will modify the format of sample job descriptions to fit the needs of the district.
  • The district will have the selected job descriptions reviewed to ensure that they meet all legal requirements.
  • The district will periodically review job descriptions for applicability and modify the descriptions as needed.
  • By accepting a job description, the district will fulfill its responsibilities in supporting the VI professional and to provide quality VI services.

How were these sample job descriptions developed?

Originally, job descriptions were requested from all of the special education administrators in Texas.  Over 300 job descriptions were collected.  Teams in various professional disciplines reviewed the job descriptions.  Based on this review and existing professional standards, sample job descriptions were developed.

How to use the sample job descriptions

Except for the VI teacher and deafblind intervener positions, multiple samples of each job category are included. Job descriptions are presented in various formats, mimicking those formats used by various programs.

For those descriptions for which there are multiple options, each sample job description is identified at the bottom of the page with a letter, such as Braillist A.  Within each category the job descriptions are listed in random order.  While variances exist, the developing committees judged them to be equivalent.

What job descriptions have been included?

VI Teacher

A teacher certified in visual impairments, or VI teacher (also TVI) provides diagnostic and instructional services to students, functions as an educational team member, and acts as a liaison with community services.  The VI teacher may be the deafblind specialist in the district.  This is an instructional position, as opposed to a related service position, and is not vision therapy (which must be conducted in an optometrist’s office). See the VI teacher job description.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist

O&M specialists are certified to provide diagnostic and instructional services, function as educational team members, and act as liaisons with community services.  O&M specialists teach students of all ages, including infants, who are blind or visually impaired, to travel safely, efficiently, and independently in a variety of environments, including the home, school, and community.  Services by O&M specialists also include services for children with visual and multiple impairments.  See the O&M specialist job description.


It is assumed that districts will modify the job descriptions to match existing formats and the needs of the district.

Braillists’ primary responsibility is to produce braille and other modified materials.  A braillist may or may not work directly with students.  The braillist works under the direction of a certified VI professional, and may be supervised either by the VI professional or a district administrator with input from the VI professional. See braillist job descriptions (A and B)

Paraprofessional with Brailling Responsibilities

Paraprofessional/braillists work directly with students and are responsible for braille production, materials modification, or other clerical and instructional tasks.  This person works under the direction of a certified VI professional and may be supervised either by the VI professional or a district administrator with input from the VI professional.  See para-braillist job descriptions ( A and B).


VI paraprofessionals are responsible for materials modification, clerical tasks, and working directly with students.  This paraprofessional is not responsible for braille, but may be responsible for materials modification, or other clerical and instructional tasks.  This person works under the direction of a certified VI professional and may be supervised either by the VI professional or a district administrator with input from the VI professional.  See paraprofessional job descriptions (A and B)

Deafblind Intervener

An intervener is a specialized paraprofessional who is trained to work with a specific deafblind student.  She or he works under the direction of the deafblind specialist.  The deafblind specialist may be certified in deafblindness or visual impairments or auditory impairments and have specialized training in deafblindness.    The primary responsibilities for the intervener are to ensure that the student who is deafblind has maximum access to the environment and communication opportunities.  An intervener acts as a bridge to the world, facilitating communication and interacting with the environment.  See the deafblind intervener job description.

How do job descriptions affect performance evaluations?

Job descriptions are a foundation to appropriate and effective performance evaluations

Performance evaluations are an important and required part of the job.  Recent and anticipated legislative and policy changes have increased their importance.  They help administrators learn about the roles and functions of VI professionals, where further guidance is needed and learn where excellence exists.  Performance evaluations provide accountability and quality assurance to the public.

The first stone in the foundation of an evaluation is the job description.  It is the mutually accepted description of the employee’s responsibilities.  Another critical part of the foundation in a rigorous and appropriate performance evaluation is that the evaluator has knowledge of what he or she is evaluating.  The job description is a valuable source of information for that purpose as well.

Like all professionals, VI professionals are evaluated.  The evaluation data are most frequently gathered from instruments or procedures developed for classroom settings and/or for teacher who work with groups of students.  While the basic tenets of the system being used are appropriate for VI professionals, often there Is a breakdown in shift from a classroom teacher to an itinerant or other non-traditional educator.  The Performance Evaluation chapter will provide guidance for using your existing evaluation instruments for evaluating non-classroom, disability-specific VI professionals.

Since there are many duties specific to any itinerant positions, the job descriptions included in this Toolbox can assist the district in using a more thorough and effective process for professional evaluations. The job responsibilities and duties listed in the descriptions provide a framework for expectations from the onset of the professional relationship, and should be shared with administrators working with VI professionals.

Active Engagement

As with all children, intervention approaches should focus on active participation of the child in all activities. Because children with visual impairments may not be able to learn by watching what is going on around them, they must learn "by doing" and interacting with their environment. Interventions should focus on the development of contingency awareness and the intrinsic motivation and drive of the very young infant and the development of the physical skills that are necessary for the child to move out and explore. Children with visual impairments should be given the opportunities to participate in all of the activities that they encounter. If a child cannot participate independently, explore ways that he can be assisted through the activity, allowing him to complete the steps that he can do independently

Active engagement can be:

  • Playing social games ("so big", pat-a-cake, "gonna get you") and allowing the child to "tell" you that he wants to play again;
  • Allowing a child to reach for a toy that is placed on his leg instead of putting it in his hand;
  • Giving a child a choice of what toy he wants, what story he wants to hear or where to sit;
  • Following predictable routines that allows a child to know what will happen next and allow him to initiate the next step;
  • Showing and letting a child make his own sandwich; or,
  • Providing stability at a child's shoulder so that he can scoop his food independently versus moving his hand for him.

Creating Ways that the Child Can Understand the "Big Picture"

Vision loss restricts a child's perception of an object or activity. For example, a child may have a limited concept of a "car" if not given the opportunity to explore, touch and manipulate different parts of a real car. Similarly, his concept of "apples" may be limited if he doesn't get the opportunity to pick apples from a tree or select them from the store, to handle and eat different apples, to make apple sauce, apple pie or fruit salad.

Examples of ways to create a "big picture" include:

  • Field trips to explore all aspects of a concept;
  • Use of routines and predictable schedule;
  • Life-like child-size spaces and objects (playhouse, miniature car, wading pool, etc.).
  • Reverse telescope for children with low vision; and,
  • Use of variety of real objects to teach specific concepts (such as using a wading pool, hula hoop, wheels of a toy car to teach the concept of "circle")

Demonstrating Skills that are Usually Learned Visually

For a totally blind child or a child who cannot see to imitate you, you may need to move the child through an activity to demonstrate what you want him to do. When demonstrating a new skill, it is easier to be behind the child so that your body is in the same orientation as his. As quickly as possible, you need to let the child actively move through the activity on his own.

Social skills are one area that may need to be demonstrated. You may need to show a child how to invite another child to play, how to take turns in play and how to share toys.

Hands-on Interaction With Real Objects

In order to learn about the world, a child with visual impairments needs experience with real objects. Provide real objects if possible, especially when a child is learning a new concept. For example, use real fruit and vegetables instead of plastic ones.

Facilitating Functional And Meaningful Language

It is not meaningful to provide a non-stop verbal description of everything that is happening all of the time to most preschoolers. For the young child, it is most important to provide critical information that the child can understand and about what is happening at the moment.

To help facilitate meaningful language:

  • Provide plenty of hands-on experiences using real objects, and all parts of the whole.
  • Acknowledge and comment on child's expressive utterances.
  • Imitate and expand on child's expressive utterances.
  • Model and encourage appropriate responses.
  • Describe the world and include demonstration and exploration with the description, fill in the gaps as necessary.
  • Introduce change in the experiences and language you provide.
  • Provide a variety of experiences.
  • Use open-ended questions to keep conversation going.
  • Make it fun!

Facilitating The Development Of Sensory Skills

Young children who are visually impaired need play and intervention to help develop and use all of their senses.


Encourage children who have low vision to use their vision by controlling environmental conditions such as lighting and glare, color, contrast, size, etc. Allow the child to hold materials at whatever angle or distance that is best for them and encourage them to move close to you at story time or circle time. Choose toys that have lights, bright colors with contrast. If using pictures or books, select pictures that have colorful and simple pictures rather than pictures that are visually cluttered. Also, if using photographs, use matted finishes instead of glossy finishes to reduce glare.


Provide opportunities for exploring tactual components of relevant objects and promote discrimination of objects by touch. Provide toys that have a variety of textures, shapes, sizes, and weight. Look for toys that have many different ways to activate them such as pushing, pulling, sliding, pinching, etc.


Provide experiences that focus on the auditory discrimination of people's voices and sounds related to activities. Encourage listening and the use of auditory clues to locate people or places. Proved toys that produce auditory feedback when manipulated, such as musical instruments and cause-and-effect toys.

Sensory "match"

Each child is individual n their needs for sensory input. Besides being aware of the sensory components of materials and activities, remember that you are also a source of sensory stimuli and may need to adjust your behavior according to the child's individual needs.

Facilitating The Development Movement

Movement can be encouraged early. Independent movement is crucial in having the child with visual impairments explore and learn about the world.

To help facilitate motor development and movement:

  • The parent or caregiver can carry the young infant in an over-the-shoulder sling. This provides not only a safe and comfortable place for the child, but allows the child to experience different movements in different planes.
  • Provide the infant with opportunities to experience different ACTIVE positions. Many infants with visual impairments demonstrate low postural and a paucity of movement due to lack of head movement. Infants with visual impairment are sometimes happy to stay on their back and need encouragement and experience with other positions actively. For older children, allow children to be in a variety of positions instead of seated in a chair at a table. Include side sitting, on their stomach on the floor, kneeling at different size tables, etc.
  • Present and position materials to encourage upright head posture. Make sure the tables and chairs are the right height, work on slanted surfaces or easels, or work with materials on the wall, pegboard, or chalkboard.
  • Provide movement activities that enhance the child's protective and equilibrium responses.
  • Don't always position yourself or materials at midline, but allow the child to orient and reach in different directions to encourage weight-shift and trunk rotation.
  • When a child is learning to walk, you can begin by having him push a heavy cart or push toy. Allow your child to be barefoot when appropriate so that he can get additional information about his surroundings.
  • Allow the child to move and explore the environment. Spaces can be defined to provide for safety and boundaries for exploration.

Facilitating Hand-Use

Children who are visually impaired and blind rely on their hands to learn about their world. It is important to enhance fine motor development, helping a child learn to use his hands. This includes playing with toys as well as getting information about objects, textures, people, sizes, letters, and eventually, learning to read and write print or braille.

To promote the development of hand-use:

  • Encourage the infant to hold his bottle to promote midline orientation of the hands. A bottle with handles may be helpful at first. A high-contrast patterned cover on he infant's bottle may help a child with low vision to visually attend to the bottle.
  • Play with the infant in positions that reinforce hand-to-hand, hand-to-knee, and hand-to-feet contact.
  • Provide toys and materials that have a variety of textures, shapes, sizes, and weight.
  • Provide toys and materials that have many different ways to be activated such as pinching, pulling, pushing, sliding, etc. and help the child to use a variety of hand and arm movements (rotating at forearm, poking with index finger, resistive play, etc.)
  • Play and provide materials that provide firm input into the hands (squeezing playdoh or putty, play in water or beans, pulling on elastic bands, etc.)
  • Provide opportunities for "messy" play. You may need to start with something like finding toys in a bowl of beans to playing with something "gooier".
  • Allow the child time to get familiar with new toys. Sometimes it is helpful for the child to "discover" the toy on its own.
  • Have toys and materials in a consistent location and accessible to the child.


Blind Children's Center (1993). First .steps: A handbook for teaching young children who are visually impaired. Los Angeles: Blind Children's Center.

Blind Children's Center (nd). Move with me: A parents' guide to movement development. for visually impaired babies. Los Angeles: Blind Children's Center.

Blind Children's Center (nd). Learning to play: Common concerns, for the visually impaired preschool child. Los Angeles: Blind Children's Center.

Chen, D., Friedman, C. T., & Calvello, G. (1990). learning together: A parent guide to socially based routines for visually impaired infants .Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

Ferrell, K.A.. (1985). Reach out and teach.New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Holbrook, M. C. (Ed.) (1995). Children with visual impairments. A parent's guide. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Pogrund, R., Fazzi, D., & Lampert, J. (Eds.) (1992) Early, focus: Working with young blind and visually impaired children and their families. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Warren, D. (1994). Blindness and children: An individual differences approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.

by Carla Brown


Folders should include the following:

  • Referral information from ECI, including Notice/Consent for Assessment
  • Comprehensive Individual Assessment Eligibility Report, Part A
  • Eye Report
  • Relevant medical information (e.g. report from neurologist)
  • Relevant assessment data (developmental checklist, O&M report)
  • Functional Vision/Learning Media Assessment
  • Comprehensive Individual Assessment Eligibility Report, Part B
  • Consent for Release of Confidential Information (VI)
  • ARD/IFSP VI Supplement
  • IFSP
  • Contact logs

TO: VI Teachers

FROM: VI Program
Education Service Center, Region XIII

DATE: July 10, 2001

RE: ARD/IEP Supplement for a Student with Visual Impairments

There have been several questions regarding what to write on page 1 of the ARD Supplement under the topic "Plans and arrangements for contacts with and continuing services to the student beyond regular school hours. "Here are some suggestions for how to fill this in correctly:

You should document in-home training, summer or weekend camps which are being used by the district to address specific IEP goals (such as O & M, daily living skills, independent living, vocational, recreational/leisure skills, etc.) that the school cannot find time for in the typical school day, but must be taught in order for the child to have a FAPE (free and appropriate education).

When you respond to this, you should identify only the services tied to the IEP, such as the teaching of O & M skills early in the morning or at night when it is dark for a student who is needing night travel experiences, teaching daily living skills after school hours, and/or TSBVI Special Programs Short Classes.

This section should not be used to describe things that are not part of the IEP, such as the activities, summer camps, or weekend camps that the child participates in for enrichment purposes. An example of this is TSBVI Summer School.

Just remember that the services that are included here become part of the IEP, and if it doesn't happen, then the district would be held responsible. If services outside typical school hours are not needed to provide FAPE for a child, then it is perfectly acceptable to write "None needed at this time" in this space. This will be the response for the majority of students. But whatever you do, DO NOT leave this item blank.

We thank Marty Murrell of TEA for sending this information to us via e-mail.

TO: Principals

FROM: Vision Itinerant Teacher

The student with a visual impairment attends the same school as the other neighborhood children and is programmed into a general education classroom.

In choosing a classroom placement for the visually impaired student, the principal should choose a teacher who will be accepting and yet able to expect from the child all he is capable of producing.

While the child remains the responsibility of the local school and the classroom teacher, support services will be forthcoming from the Vision Itinerant Program. Materials normally provided for other students should also be provided for the visually impaired student by the local school.

Some children with visual impairments will need special equipment (i.e. tape recorders, note taking devices, magnifiers, boldline paper) which will be provided by the Vision Program. Materials normally provided for other students should also be provided for the visually impaired student by the local school.

A teacher from the Vision Program is required to attend all local staff planning meetings for a visually impaired child concerning placement and educational planning.

Vision Program members will help the child learn to travel throughout the school setting if necessary.

Services available through the Vision Itinerant Program are:

  • Evaluation of visual functioning
  • Consultation to school staff
  • Ongoing observation of identified visually impaired children
  • Specialized skill instruction
  • Inservice training to staff
  • Orientation and mobility (from a certified O&M specialist)
  • Coordination of involvement of other agencies/doctors
  • Provision of adapted materials and/or device


  • Bell balls
  • Beeper balls
  • Sound source
  • Brightly colored balls, bean bags, carpet squares, hoola hoops, cones, etc.

Team Sports

  • Safety is the most important aspect of any sports activity
  • Begin teaching lead up skills at a young age
  • Use modified equipment
  • Teacher, coach or parent chooses teams
  • Allow visually impaired child to choose teams
  • Switch teams or partners frequently
  • Never allow "regular" kids to pick teams (students with disabilities will be left out)
  • Adjust size of field or court
  • Use sighted guides or buddies
  • Keep area clear and uncluttered
  • Allow plenty of practice time
  • Braille copy of rules
  • Modify rules to needs of student
  • Reduce number of players on field/court
  • Brightly colored boundary lines
  • Place orange cones at bases and base lines
  • Have brightly colored t- shirts or pennies for different teams
  • Make tactual "maps" of playing area
  • Allow student to tactually explore equipment


  • Bell basketball
  • Brightly colored balls
  • Brightly colored backboard
  • Place sound source on or near backboard
  • Use long pole to tap on backboard
  • Spend adequate time on individual skills
  • Use bounce pass so they will hear it bounce
  • Allow visually impaired student to shoot free throws for both teams


  • Use balloons or soft balls
  • Use brightly colored balls
  • Place brightly colored tape or material on top of net
  • Lower the net
  • Use buddies to give command to bump or set
  • Focus on serving skills and allow VI student to serve frequently


  • Use beeper or bell ball
  • Place sound source at goal
  • Have goalie verbalize location
  • Have students on boundary lines giving cues
  • Mark lines in yellow or bright colors


  • Play Beep baseball
  • Use batting tee or tall cone
  • Use brightly colored plastic bat and ball
  • Have sighted guides for running bases
  • Shorten length of baseline
  • Place string line from base to base


  • Use a magnetic board to review plays and positions
  • Use soft ball or sponge type ball
  • Place sound source at goal
  • Have receiver clap or verbalize position


  • Stack bales of hay around target as backboard
  • Use high contrast between backdrop and target
  • Stress safety and proper technique
  • Place brightly colored shapes or balloons on target
  • Make targets larger
  • Place bright marker or blocks on ground to make sure student is facing
  • the proper direction
  • Place sound source at target
  • Have sighted buddy give feedback on where arrows are contacting
  • Use brightly colored bows and arrows Mark bows and arrows with different textures
  • Tell student when to begin shooting, and when to stop so that arrows can be retrieved
  • Tie string line to target and have student follow it to retrieve arrows


  • Use plastic clubs of hockey sticks
  • Use brightly colored plastic or regular balls
  • Use larger ball such as a regular size wiffle ball
  • Place sound source at cup
  • Place border around putting area as in putt- putt golf
  • Have buddy give cues on distance, cup location, and terrain

Track and Field

  • Use sighted guide for running
  • Have sighted guide hold baton, piece of soft rope or cloth to increase
  • distance between them
  • Shorten running distances
  • Place sound source at take- off point for jumping
  • Mark lanes and finish lines with bright colors

Thread a rope through a plastic or rubber tube about 12 inches long (section of water hose works great). Tie each end of the rope near starting and finish points. Student slides the hose down the rope as she/he walks or runs. Place a knot just past the finish line so she/he will stop at the appropriate spot.


  • Use bell ball
  • Use brightly colored balls
  • Place brightly colored tape or material along top of net
  • Mark boundary lines in bright colors
  • Modify serving technique
  • Use larger balls, sponge balls or balloons


  • Use a bowling ramp
  • Place sound source near pins
  • Use a tactual scoring system
  • Place bumpers in gutters

Encourage children with visual impairments to play. Supervise their activities but don't over protect them. Allow them to behave as sighted kids would during play. It is normal for children to engage in rough and tumble play at a young age. Visually impaired children should explore and climb on playground equipment. Find clear, open spaces where they can run and skip and hop safely and independently. All children should learn to swim, skate, ride a bike, and participate in many individual, lifetime activities. Give visually impaired children as many physical experiences as possible. Start early, don't wait!

Cathey Bridges, B.S. Kinesiology


By Elsie Rao, VI Teacher, Tyler Independent School District

The beginning of school is such a busy time for everyone, and it is especially busy for teachers of students with visual impairments. The following is a summary of some of the things I try to do to cut down on the annual hassle surrounding the start of school.

  1. Obtain class schedules for students and school bell schedules. If you have high school students on your case load, try to sit down with the scheduling office in the summer, usually around the first part of August, (this depends totally on their schedule) and develop a schedule for your student. This can be particularly beneficial if you can pick the student’s teachers. Ask questions of the scheduling officer or a teacher who has been on the campus for a long time about different teachers. You need to try to find teachers who USE the state adopted textbook and not their notes or another textbook. You also need teachers who do not solely use the overhead or write on the blackboard for presentation of materials. These practices can leave a VI student with little or no hope of academic succeeding. Middle schools usually have their schedules ready before school starts, so usually I can pick them up before school starts. The elementary campus can tell you who the teacher will be, but usually you can’t get their schedules until you have a chance to sit down and talk with the classroom teacher. You need a student’s schedule regardless of whether you see the student on a direct basis or consult. You need the bell schedules too because the student’s class schedule will be meaningless if you don’t know when classes begin and end.
  2. Prepare a folder, preferably one that is brightly colored, to hand out to regular teachers. Include, a letter of introduction about yourself, schedule, and contact information. Provide a handout about either a low vision student or Braille student, and a copy of your progress report. Some type of written communication is important for documentation of service since there are times when you have little contact with a student, like one you see 1 or 2 hours a semester. When you meet the new regular teacher you can go over all of these forms and tell them that each 6 weeks you will be sending this form for them to complete and return to you. This will prevent you from showing up at an annual ARD only to find out the VI student is failing a class. I usually send this to all the teachers I work with because I want to know what is happening in the classroom and this prevents the teacher from telling you that everything is “fine” when it is not. If a teacher has to indicate if a student is passing their class, then you have documentation to show the progress being made.
  3. Braille and enlarge copies of school calendars for your students. This is a great organizational tool. If they have something where they can write dates for special projects or tests, then they are more organized. Laminate the large print copies, fold them in half, and 3-whole punch them so they fit in notebooks.
  4. Plan lessons by writing down what you intend to teach. If you don’t, you will find that time just slips by. When I have a lesson plan written down, I am talking about what the lesson will cover from the moment I meet the student. Since I usually have to take the student to another room for our lesson, I am introducing material, giving background info., or reviewing previously learned material as we move. I also take the students IEP and rewrite it in a check-list format, laminate it and carry it in the student’s folder or in my lesson plan book. This helps me stay focused on my job of TEACHER. I am an “intensive teacher” because I realize that my student has twice as much to learn as his/her peers and I have half the teaching time (or less) to accomplish the lesson. So I teach, check for comprehension, re-teach, check again, and so on. When I walk away, I want to KNOW that I did the best I could do. This will not happen if I don’t have a lesson plan and follow it.
  5. Tape record a lesson from time to time. This will make you realize how to help yourself become a better teacher. You can pick up on your student’s learning style and your teaching style. If you don’t like what you hear, then you can figure out what to do. This is something special to share with your appraiser. They will be impressed that you are strong and caring enough to implement a technique to improve your teaching style.
  6. At some point, you will have a student who has a poor home life in your opinion. Try not to judge the parents too harshly. You don’t know where they have been or what they have been through. If you are asked for help, then give it, but you must accept the situation. You can encourage parents to change some things, but for the most part, your main effect will be on that child. Make school the best it can be for your student.
  7. Invite your “boss” to see your student’s when they are being recognized or participating in special programs. Rarely, does my director have time to visit with me or my students, but she knows what honors they receive and what activities they participate in. Your director or supervisor will come to trust you to keep him/her informed. It is also important that you tell your boss about other district and campus administrators who are really helpful to you or your students. Being positive has tremendous rewards.
  8. I often run into people who think that special education means “stupid.” It is part of your job to teach them to see special education and special education teachers in another light. There have been times in my past when I saw an itinerant teacher slack off, sneak off, or abuse the freedom of her position. Try to live above the law. Be a model so you don’t have to answer embarrassing questions about your where-abouts.
  9. If possible, deliver textbooks and special materials before classes start. This might mean you will “donate” a day of work since there are rarely days to deliver materials built into the calendar. Getting these materials to teachers before classes start will make the beginning of school so much easier on your students and on you. If you box and label materials when you pick them up at the end of the school year, it makes it easier in the fall. Also, maintain a written list, SOMEWHERE, of all the materials you loan out to a classroom or student. A page in your lesson plan book is a good place for this because you always have that with you. Be sure to label your lesson plan book in big contrasting letters so if it gets lost, the one who finds it will know how to contact you. A great lesson plan book is made by Elan, edition @ 101, forty weeks. It is 81/2 by 11, has the days across the top, and the periods of the day can be scheduled any way you like. There is an extra blank field on the right to keep personal notes or memos.
  10. Enjoy in-services because learning new information will help you maintain a perspective. It is critical to stay fresh and aware. Even during the most boring sessions (and we have all been in some) try to learn at least one thing. In-service programs designed for the regular classroom teacher may seem boring to you, but these sessions give you important information about what other teachers and students are learning, how they are grading, the curriculum for the grade/subject, etc. (This article from the newspaper says a lot about maintaining perspective.)
  11. Make it a point to meet and know the parking lot attendants, janitors, security guards, and secretaries. You will always have tons of stuff to tote, need a space to work, and a place to store materials during the year and summers. These people will be your best friends. They will have suggestions for you and are usually willing to help you.
  12. Schedule a time to meet with the classroom teachers of your students who receive direct services. Try to make this a weekly, scheduled event because there is so much you need to know and so much that the regular teacher needs to hear from you. When you meet, find out about your student’s social and academic skills. Ask what special events are coming up so you can adjust or modify schedules or materials. This meeting helps to promote teamwork. Ask what you can do to help the teacher. There have been times in my past when I would take a slow reader, at the teacher’s request, to read with my Braille student. This was a great way for my student to learn about others in the class and it helped the sighted student learn about the special student, as well as having a chance to read in a non-threating situation. I know there are some teachers that you would rather never meet because they are not meeting the needs of your student and you honestly can’t stand them. Go anyway, and praise them for something they have done right. If you are seen in a positive light, it is possible you can evoke some changes. You student needs and deserves that.
  13. Don’t judge the regular teacher. Try to fit into their schedule and adjust to their standards if at all possible. You are a guest in their room. Remember there is something to be learned from everyone!
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask questions. It will save you time and keep you from making work harder on yourself. Remember, it is not how hard we work; it is how smart we work. This job is challenging so look for ways to make it easier on you.
  15. There is a form called VI Registration Worksheet. Fill it out and keep it in your lesson plan book in a plastic sleeve. This gives you all the information needed to know to complete the VI registration in January. It is also a great way to keep pertinent information handy to answer questions about what books and tests to order, dates for re-evals., etc.
  16. There is an example of a blank weekly schedule. When completed, give copies to your director, the teachers you work with, and your co-workers. It is a good idea to write your phone numbers on this sheet.
  17. The page containing the Braille code and Nemeth info. is one to laminate and keep in your lesson plan book. You never know when you may need a braille refresher!
  18. Teaching social skills is so important for your student. Spend extra time developing a list of goals for each student. Your student will never be successful in life without good people skills.

By Elsie Rao, VI Teacher, Tyler Independent School District

Teaching children who are braille readers is unique. With minor adjustments and some adaptations, classroom teachers can discover how to be successful. The first step is to realize what learning has been like for a student with no or very limited vision. Without normal vision, a child has to be taught the basics of everything; how to sit up, crawl, eat, play, etc. Eighty percent of what a sighted baby learns comes through the sense of sight, so it makes sense that a child without vision will not learn incidentally. This makes early childhood intervention and instruction critical to learning and development. Even with early instruction, blind children will usually function below his/her sighted peers since there is so much to learn. Even so, there are some lessons in life that cannot be fully understood without sight. For instance, what does tall mean? How does one explain the difference between a tall man, a tall tree, and a tall building to someone who has never seen? Describe the white clouds in the blue sky. Tell how the town looks after the tornado hit. Describe the facial expression of the person who is horrified.

Teachers who work with blind children must help these students comprehend and implement basic skills and concepts, like round for example. A blind child must be taught that coins are round, balls are round, and tires are also round. These are just a few examples of objects that are round. The student may not understand how "roundness" applies to all of these objects since they are different sizes, and they feel so different. When the concept is fully understood, the student will be able to apply the concept of "roundness" to all objects. Rarely will a young severely visually impaired (VI) child comprehend and master a lesson in one sitting. It will probably take many lessons to completely teach a concept like round since it has to be taught in so many different settings.

There will also be instances when a blind student will use a word correctly in a sentence, but may not know the meaning of the word. Once, a student told me that her dad had new contacts after I mentioned to her that I had new glasses. When I asked her what a contact was, she said she did not know. Also, the English language is filled with words which can be used in so many ways, and sometimes the meanings get confusing. For instance, a bird flies, a jet flies, but how does a flag fly? Effective teachers will constantly ask questions or create situations that require the blind student to demonstrate the understanding of the word. The education of a VI child can be compared to a building. One block of knowledge rests on top of another, like one floor rests on another. The question is, will the building be a one-story structure or will it be a high-rise? Another way to visualize this is to picture an inverted triangle. Leaning starts with just one small concept. This concept is expanded and used to teach another, and then another. So the pyramid is built from the bottom up.

Now that you have some examples of how learning for a blind child is different from teaching sighted students, or now that you "see" what they don't "see", let’s look at some tips that may be helpful to use in the classroom.

Some General Facts Regarding Braille Students:

  • The “Golden Rule” in teaching blind children is to never do anything for them that they can do for themselves.
  • Remember that this student is just like all the others, except for the visual impairment. It is a child you are teaching, not a blind person.
  • Schedule a time to meet the student so you can introduce yourself and get acquainted in a one to one setting. This is also an excellent time to let the student investigate your classroom.
  • During the first meeting, have the student explain how he/she writes, reads, takes notes, etc. Schedule a time when this information can be shared with the class. Regular students are always interested in the special equipment, so if you give them an opportunity to examine it, they are less likely to be distracted by it when it is used.
  • Have the student explain his/her eye condition. This is an important skill that the student will need the rest of his/her life. Each time he/she tells the story, it becomes a little easier to explain
  • Some students have a little vision. Ask the student to tell you what he/she can see.
  • Tell the child when you are going to touch him/her. Otherwise, your touch may startle the child or be a threat.
  • Remember that about 70% of all communication is non-verbal. A blind student does not see the expression on your face, the gestures you make, or know what you are wearing. This is vital information that the child must learn to pick up from other reactions that are going on in the classroom. It is very helpful to the blind person for someone to explain situations as they occur.
  • Tape record conversations or lessons so you can hear your voice. Your VI student will recognize and judge you by the sound of your voice; just as sighted people tend to judge others by the way they look. This student will form an opinion of you by listening to your voice. You need to be aware of how you sound to others.
  • Always introduce yourself when you meet and/or greet the student, and encourage other students and staff to do the same. In time most VI students learn to identify people by the sound of their voice. Please discourage others from walking up to the student and asking, "Who am I?" This puts the student on the spot and can be embarrassing. How would you feel if someone walked up to you and asked the same question and you had forgotten their name?
  • When speaking to the student, say his/her name first. Otherwise, the student may not know you are speaking to him/her. There are usually so many sounds in a classroom that are distracting. Calling the student's name is like making eye contact with a sighted person.
  • Teach the rest of the class to use the blind student’s name when addressing him/her, and to add their name to what they are saying. (Practicing this is very helpful.) This will really help the child learn his/her classmates’ names, and will also help him/her make friends.
  • Do not let the child use his/her handicapping condition as a crutch. Expect the student to be responsible and respectful, just like all the other students.
  • There will be times when an adaptation is needed and not available. Verbalize the situation and involve the VI student in the development of a solution. This helps the student learn to be a problem solver. Assisting in a situation such as this helps to strengthen and improve a student's self-esteem by empowering him/her to take control over his/her learning, his/her life, and his/her education.
  • Encourage and create situations where the blind student is actively involved in helping someone else. Too often, special education students are taught to receive, but not to give. Sighted people can see the joy in someone's eye when help is given. A person without vision has to learn how to help and glean reward from the experience.
  • Do not change your vocabulary. Phrase like, "Do you see?" are common expressions that everyone uses. Remember that you are trying to help the VI child learn to live in a sighted world.
  • Give the student the grade he/she earned. Giving an inflated grade does not help the student learn or be successful.
  • If you observe ink or food on the VI student's body or clothing, discretely inform them of the problem.

Classroom Considerations:

  • Each classroom needs storage space for the braille textbooks. Every state-adopted book is available in braille; however, it will be in several large volumes.
  • Braille students require a large work area because of the size of the books and equipment. Have an extra desk or a table available for them to use.
  • Cooperative learning or group work is an effective teaching method to use with a braille student. It encourages the development of friendships and improves learning.
  • Each VI student will have a modification sheet that will be handed out to you at the beginning of the year or semester. Please ask the teacher of the visually impaired if you do not understand the modifications. These are REQUIRED since they are part of the student's IEP, Individualized Educational Program.
  • Arrange for someone to sit next to the VI student during movies, assemblies, or special events to explain what is happening. This really helps the child make sense of the occasion, helps them stay focused, and discourages daydreaming.
  • Have high expectations for the VI student. Expect him/her to follow the same rules of behavior and produce the same quality of work as all the others.
  • Develop an emergency plan with the student. Practice evacuating the classroom or school with the teacher and with an alternate, which can be a responsible student.
  • Insist that the student use his/her mobility skills when moving about the classroom or school. Ask the orientation and mobility teacher for help if you do no understand.

Other Information:

  • Give a copy of materials that need to be brailled to the VI teacher a week ahead of time. It takes longer to braille a worksheet than it does to type it. Some math worksheets can take up to one hour to prepare. Please give as much time as possible to produce the work.
  • Complete the quarterly report the VI teacher sends to you each six weeks. This is an excellent way to improve communication between the teachers.
  • At the beginning of the year or semester, tell the VI teacher about special projects or papers that will be required. Advance notice allows the student and teacher to request special materials from the State library.
  • Social skills are usually a weak area for VI students. If you notice a student displaying poor table manners, being unfriendly or disrespectful, etc., please correct the student and let the VI teacher know. The education of a blind child covers so much more than academics. If a child learns to read and write but does not learn to successfully interact with others, then he/she is in danger of becoming isolated and lonely. Social skills are SO important for everyone, but especially students with a visual impairment.