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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.

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.

The following areas should be measured during routine eye examinations of adults and visually impaired children. In some cases of eye disease visual acuity remains normal and only contrast sensitivity changes. So, both values are important to assess for the understanding of visual function.


___Spots on clothes, counters and dishes, not noticed.

___Difficulty driving and seeing buses on cloudy days.

___Peoples facial gestures are missed.

___Not always see flame on a gas stove.

___Need more light to read.

___Watching TV tires eyes.


___Difficulty seeing the dials on appliances.

___Reading tires eyes.

___Additional magnification needed to read standard print.

___Need to hold print closer to eyes to read.

___Problems reading street signs

___Difficulty reading bus schedules.


___Frequently trips on curbs and steps.

___Don’t notice people approaching from the side.

___Food spoils on top shelf of refrigerator.

___Difficulty locating traffic lights.

___Miss seeing some of the food on the plate.


___Difficulty seeing when entering the house from outside.

___Can not see well outside at night.

___Need lots of lights on in the house at night.

___Problems finding things in poorly lit areas like drawers.


___Color confusion when picking out clothes.

___Incorrectly naming colors.

___Changes in color identification.


"The Art and Practice of Low Vision" by Paul B. Freeman, O.D. & Randall T. Jose, O.D. (#2015)

"Foundations of Low Vision: Clinical & Functional Perspectives" edited by Anne Corn & Alan Koenig(#2008)

Information provided by VISION ASSOCIATES -
2109 US Hwy 90 West
Ste. 170 #312
Lake City, FL 32055
(407) 352-1200
FAX (386) 752-7839

Locating appropriate tools to help develop appropriate IEP goals in the wide range of areas impacted by a visual impairment is a formidable task. We have so far compiled the following listing of assessment tools used and recommended by teachers of children with visual impairments to evaluate their students' skills. We have put this together over a couple of years, and welcome your comments, additions, or deletions. It is organized by content and then in alphabetical order with ordering information.



  • ABLS (Assessing Braille Literacy Skills)
  • AFB Practice Report-Informal Assessment of Developmental Skills for Visually Handicapped Students
  • AUEN (Addressing Unique Educational Needs of Individuals With Disabilities)
  • Braille Requisite Skills
  • Braille Too
  • FACTS (Functional & Applied Curriculum and Training Skills) California School for the Blind
  • MBSI (Minnesota Braille Skills Inventory)
  • Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition
  • Mangold Math
  • Patterns Braille Reading Program
  • Patterns Pre-Braille Program
  • PREP (Preparatory Reading Program for Visually Handicapped Children)
  • Read Again
  • Sharpe-McNear-McGrew Braille Assessment Inventory (BAI)
  • TSBVI Functional Academics Curriculum


  • Gray Reading Inventory
  • Jerry Johns Informal Reading Inventory
  • Spache - Diagnostic Reading Scales


  • Abacus Checklist for Counting Method
  • Use of the Cranmer Abacus - TSBVI


  • Brigance - Grade Placement Test
  • Key Math Diagnostic Arithmetic Test
  • TSBVI Functional Academics Curriculum
  • Woodcock - Johnson


  • Broken Wheel Visual Acuity Text 
  • BAR (Beyond Arms Reach)
  • DAP (Diagnostic Assessment Procedure)
  • Developmental Visual Dysfunction - Ehrhardt
  • Oregon Project
  • Peabody Mobility Kit
  • Perkins Activity & Resource Guide
  • Project Strive
  • Teachers' Guide to the Special Educational Needs of Blind and Visually Handicapped Children - Functional Vision Checklists
  • VIISA (Resources for Family Centered Intervention for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Who Are Visually Impaired)

O & M

  • Body Image of Blind Children - Cratty and Sams
  • Jackson Preschool O & M Referral, Inventory & Assessment
  • Oregon Project
  • Peabody Mobility Screening
  • TAPS, O & M Curriculum Guide - TSBVI


  • Mangold Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition
  • Oregon Project


  • AUEN
  • AFB Practice Report
  • Brigance - Auditory Discrimination Sections
  • Listening A Curriculum Guide for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments
  • Focus on Individualized Programming for the Visually Handicapped
  • TOLD (Test of Language Development)
  • Woodcock-Johnson


  • AFB Practice Report
  • Keys to Success (software)
  • Talking Typer (software)
  • Typewriting for the Blind - APH tapes


  • AUEN
  • Independent Living Curriculum - TSBVI
  • Oregon Project
  • SSAT-VI (Social Skills Assessment Tool for Children with Visual Impairments)
  • VIneland - Socialization Domain


  • AUEN
  • Independent Living Curriculum - TSBVI
  • Oregon Project
  • Vineland - Daily Living Skills Domain


  • AFB Practice Report
  • AUEN
  • Independent Living Curriculum - TSBVI


  • Every Move Counts - Sensory Based Communication Techniques
  • HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile)
  • Oregon Project
  • Vineland - Communication Domain


  • Functional Vision Evaluation Form - ESC Region VIII
  • South Carolina Functional Vision Assessment
  • TSBVI Low Vision Resource Guide
  • Teachers' Guide to the Special Educational Needs of Blind and Visually Handicapped Children - Functional Vision Checklists


ABLS (Assessing Braille Literacy Skills)

Region IV Educational Service Center
7145 W. Tidwell Rd.
P. O. Box 863
Houston, Texas 77092-2096
(713) 462-7708

AFB Practice Report - Informal Assessment of Developmental Skills for Visually Handicapped Students

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza - Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
(202) 502-7600

AUEN (Addressing the Unique Educational Needs of Individuals with disabilities - Categorical VI)

Disability Research Systems
500 Kerry St., Suite 208
Lansing, Michigan 48912
(517) 485-5599

Abacus Checklist for the Counting Method

Debra Sewell - TSBVI Outreach Program
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9301

BAR (Beyond Arms Reach)

Audrey Smith, Ph.D.
Lizabeth O'Donnell, M.S.
Pennsylvania College of Optometry Press
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Body Image of Blind Children - Bryant Cratty and Theressa Sams

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza - Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
(202) 502-7600

Braille Requisite Skills

Region IV Education Service Center
7145 W. Tidwell Rd.
P.O. Box 863
Houston, Texas 77092-2096
(713) 462-7708

Braille Too

Grant Wood Educational Agency - Marketing Department
4401 Sixth St. SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
(319) 399-6714


Stoelting Company
620 Wheat Lane
Wood Dale, IL 60191
Phone - (630) 860-9700

(Available in Braille from APH)

Broken Wheel Visual Acuity Text

Bernell Co.
750 Lincolnway East
P.O. Box 4637
South Bend, Indiana 46634

DAP (Diagnostic Assessment Procedure)

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Developmental Visual Dysfunction

Therapy Skill Builders
3830 E. Bellevue
P. O. Box 42050
Tucson, Arizona 85733
(602) 323-7500

Every Move Counts - Sensory Based Communication Techniques

Therapy Skills Builders - A division of Communication Skills Builders
3830 E. Bellvue
P. O. Box 42050
Tucson, Arizona 85733
(602) 323-7500

FACTS (Functional & Applied Curriculum and Training Skills)

California School for the Blind
500 Walnut Avenue
Fremont, California 94536

Focus On Individual Programming for the Visually Handicapped

Pennsylvania Materials Center for the Visually Handicapped
5601 N. Front St.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110

Functional Vision Evaluation Form - ESC Region VIII

P. O. Box 1894
Mt. Pleasant, Texas 75456-1894
(903) 572-8551

Gray Reading Inventory

8700 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78758-9965
(512) 451-3246

HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile)

VORT Corporation
PO Box 60132
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 322-8282
Web site:


Project INSITE
Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind
846 20th St.
Ogden, Utah 84401

Independent Living Curriculum - TSBVI

Curriculum Department
1100 W 45th St.
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9240

Jerry Johns Informal Reading Inventory

Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
2460 Kerper Blvd.
P. O. Box 539
Dubuque, Iowa 52004-0539
(319) 589-1000

KEY Math

American Guidance Service
Publisher's Bldg.
Circle Pines, MN 55014-1796
(800) 328-2560

(Available in Braille from APH)

Keys to Success (software)

Life Science Associates
One Fenimore Rd.
Bayport, NY 11705
(516) 472-2111

Listening: A Curriculum Guide for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments

Illinois Office of Education
Department of Exceptional Children
Springfield, Illinois

MBSI (Minnesota Braille Skills Inventory)

Minnesota Educational Services
Capitol View Center - 70 W. Co. Rd. - B2
Little Canada, MN 55117-1402

Mangold Development Program of Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition

Exceptional Teaching Aids
20102 Woodbine Avenue
Castro Valley, California 94546
(510) 582-4859

Mangold Math

Exceptional Teaching Aids
20102 Woodbine Avenue
Castro Valley, California 94546
(510) 582-4859

O & M Referral, Inventory and Assessment

Jackson Education Service District
101 N. Grape St.
Medford, Oregon 97501
(503) 776-8550

Oregon Project

Jackson Education Service District
101 N. Grape St.
Medford, Oregon 97501
(541) 776-8555

Patterns Braille Reading Program

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Patterns Pre-braille Program

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Peabody Mobility Screening

Stoelting Co.
1350 S. Kostner Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60623
(312) 522-4500

Perkins Activity and Resource Guide

Perkins School for the Blind
175 North Beacon Street
Watertown, Massachusetts 02172
(617) 924-3434

PREP (Preparatory Reading Program for Visually Handicapped Children)

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Project Strive

Region IV Education Service Center
7145 W. Tidwell Rd.
P. O. Box 863
Houston, Texas 77092-2096
(713) 462-7708

Read Again

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Sharpe-McNear-McGrew Braille Assessment Inventory

Hawthorne Educational Services, Inc.
800 Gray Oak Drive
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 874-1710

SSAT-VI (Social Skills Assessment Tool for Children with Visual Impairments)

B.J. McCallum & S. Sacks
1296 Mariposa Avenue
San Jose, California 95126

South Carolina Functional Vision Assessment

South Carolina Department of Education
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201

TAPS, O & M Curriculum Guide - TSBVI

Curriculum Department
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9240

TOLD (Test of Language Development)

8700 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78758-9965
(512) 451-3246

TSBVI Functional Academics Curriculum

Curriculum Department
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9240

Talking Typer

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Teachers' Guide to the Special Educational Needs of Blind and Visually Handicapped Children-Functional Vision Checklists

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza - Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
(202) 502-7600

Typewriting for the Blind

American Printing House for the Blind
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
(800) 223-1839

Use of the Cranmer Abacus - TSBVI

Curriculum Department
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9240

VIISA (Resources for Family Centered Intervention for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Who Are Visually Impaired)

Ski*Hi Institute
Utah State University
Department of Communicative Disorders
Logan, Utah 84322-1900

Vineland Behavior Rating Scales

American Guidance Service
Publisher's Bldg.
Circle Pines, MN 55014-1796
(800) 328-2560


DLM Teaching Resources
One DLM Park
Allen, Texas 75002

Compiled by TSBVI Outreach, 1996.
Distributed at International AER Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, 1996

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 3rd Ed. (WISC 111), Verbal subtests only

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - Revised (WAIS 111), Verbal subtests only

Wechsler Memory Scales

Woodcock- Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability, R or III, Verbal subtests only

Woodcock- Johnson Psycho- Educational Battery, Revised or 111, Tests of Achievement

California Verbal Learning Test

Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, selected subtests (Listening, Reading, Math, etc.)

Key Math Diagnostic Arithmetic Test- Revised

Test of Language Development 3, primary and intermediate

Test of Written Language

Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills

Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization Test (uses colored blocks)

Clinical Evaluation of Language Function- Revised

Test of Problem Solving

SCAN, Screening Test for Auditory Processing Disorders

The Word Test

Goldman- Fristoe Woodcock Auditory Skills Battery

Haptic Memory Matching Test, McCarron- Dial Systems

Neuropsychological Test Batteries: Halstead- Reitan Luria- Nebraska

Various assessments for ADD/ADHD, behavioral & personality tests

Assessments used in occupational therapy, orientation & mobility

Bulla, 2001

Psychological Corp
Order Service Center
P.O. Box 839954
San Antonio, TX 78283- 9954
1- 800- 228- 0752

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition (WISC III)
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third edition (WAIS III)
  • Wechsler Memory Scales
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- Revised CELF- R
  • American Association on Mental Deficiency AAMD Adaptive Behavior Scale
  • Wide Range Achievement Test - III
  • Bailey Scales of Infant Development
  • McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities
  • Beck Depression Inventory
  • McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities
  • California Verbal Learning Test
  • Scan (Screening Test for Auditory Processing Disorders

Pro- Ed
8700 Shoal Creek Blvd
Austin, TX 78758- 9965
512) 451- 3246
FAX (512)451- 8542

  • Test of Written Language- 3, (TOWL)
  • Test of Adolescent Language- 3, (TOAL).
  • Test of Written Spelling- 3, (TWS)
  • Behavior Rating Profile - 2
  • Gray Oral Reading Test- 3
  • Gray Oral Reading Tests- Diagnostic
  • Wide Range Achievement Test - 3 (WRAT- 3)
  • Test of Language Development- P and - I, 3
  • Developmental Activities Screening Inventory- II
  • Diagnostic Achievement Battery-2
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale
  • Emotional Problems Scale
  • Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization Test

University of Illinois Press
P.O. Box 5081, Station A
Champaign, IL 61820

  • Uzgiria- Hunt Ordinal Scales of Psychological Development

American Guidance Service
Publishers' Building
Circle Pines, MN 55014- 1796
1- 800- 328- 2560

  • Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales
  • Key Math Diagnostic Arithmetic Test- Revised
  • Behavior Assessment System for Children

CTB/MCGraw- Hill
Del Monte Research Park
Monterrey, CA 93940

  • Spache Diagnostic Reading Scales

Riverside Publishing Co
8420 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL 60631
(800) 323- 9540

  • Woodcock- Johnson Psychoeducational Test Battery, Revised W- J Tests of Cognitive Ability
  • W-J Tests of Cognitive Ability, R and III
  • ICAP (Inventory for Client & Agency Planning) adaptive behavior
  • Scales of Independent Behavior- Revised, Short form for the Visually Impaired

PAR Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
P.O. Box 998
Odessa, FL 33556
1-800-331-TEST (8378)

  • Emotional Problems Scale

Lingui Systems
3100 4th Avenue
East Moline, IL 61244-0747

  • Test of Problem Solving

Psychological & Educational Publishers, Inc.
1477 Rollins Road
Burlingame, CA 94010

  • Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills

Curriculum Associates
5 Esquire Road
North Billerica, MA 01862- 2589

  • Brigance Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills (green)

Jackson Education Service District
ATTN: OR Project
101 North Grape Street
Medford, OR 97501101
(503) 776- 8552

  • Oregon Project for Visually Impaired and Blind Preschool Children, 3rd Ed.

Univ. of Texas at Dallas
Callier Center for Communication Disorders
1966 Inwood Road
Dallas, TX 75235- 7298
(214) 905- 3060

  • Callier- Azusa Scales, Forms G and H

Functional Resources Enterprises, Inc
2743 Trail of the Madrones
Austin, TX 78746
(512) 327- 1741

  • Functional Skills Screening Inventory (FSSI)

Vort Corporation
P.O. Box 11132
Palo Alto, CA 94306

  • Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP)

Three Dimensional Systems
4835 N. O'Connor
Suite 134- 308
Irving TX 75062
(214) 717- 1334
FAX (214) 650- 0961

  • Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation System (CVES) ) {used by TX Commission for the Blind in vocational assessment}

American Printing House for the Blind
P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, KY 40206- 0085
(800) 223- 1839

  • Key Math- Revised in Braille
  • Brigance (green) in Braille
  • Stanford Achievement Tests, Brl & LT

Disability Research Systems, Inc.
2500 Kerry Street, Suite 208
Lansing, MI 48912

  • Addressing Unique Educational Needs of Individuals with Disabilities: An Outcome Based Approach


Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired does not promote or endorse any of the above listed assessment products. Test materials listed here are offered as instruments which may be useful as part of a comprehensive assessment of persons with visual impairments. Any adaptation of standardized test procedures or accommodations should be noted in assessment report. Test results should be interpreted with CAUTION, with consultation from a certified teacher of the visually impaired.

Bulla, 2003

Examples of phrases you may need to use if you adapt the test:

  • "The test was not timed due to visual impairment."
  • "Test items that were visual in nature were eliminated."
  • "Adaptations in test items or administration may have altered the reliability and validity of this test."
  • "The student used a CCTV during the test and recorded his answers on bold lined paper with a black felt tip pen. He wore glasses for reading."
  • "The student used the abacus to compute arithmetic problems and recorded his answers in Braille."
  • "The student has no reading medium and had the comprehension section and spelling words read to him. Therefore, the results represent his oral comprehension and oral spelling ability."

Examples of phrases you may need to use if you do not adapt the test:

  • "These results compare the student to his sighted peers."
  • "This test was not normed on the visually impaired population, therefore, the results should not be considered completely valid."
  • "These results are probably a minimal estimate of the student's ability due to item inappropriateness and lack of normative data on the visually impaired population."
  • "The student is functioning approximately three years below grade placement level of his sighted peers."
  • "The student showed the following strengths and weaknesses:"
  • "The student could follow three step directions orally. He needs to improve ..."


BY Kathleen Appleby, M.A.

NAME_______________________________ AGE_______ DATE_________

RESPONDENT’S NAME__________________ PHONE_____________________

A one year old child with "normal" visual development can accurately fixate with aligned eyes, smoothly shift gaze, converge eyes to 3" from the nose, and smoothly follow moving objects with no head movement. Acuity continues to improve as the retina matures.

Please complete the above and check any area below that pertains


___One eye turns in or out

___Closes an eye or tilts head for near tasks

___Red eyes or lids, or crust on eyelids

___Excessive blinking or tearing of eyes


___Holds things close to eyes

___Needs to sit close to television to watch it

___Thrusts head forward when looking at distance


___Needs more light to read than expected

___Doesn’t see soil spots on clothes or on counters

___Reads print but can’t see the bus on cloudy days


___Difficulty with step downs

___Bumps into things

___Doesn’t read to the end of a sentence before going to the next


___Pauses when coming indoors on sunny days

___Slow adjustment to lighting changes, night travel difficulties


___Head moves instead of eyes when reading or looking at pictures

___Loses place when reading and skips lines

___Needs to use finger as a line marker

___Difficulty solving maze puzzles, i.e., word searches


___Fatigues during near visual tasks, short interest span

___Difficulty judging where things are in space

___Difficulty following flight of a ball

___Math errors due to misalignment of numbers

___Tires easily, inattentive, poor concentration

Information provided by VISION ASSOCIATES
2109 US Hwy 90 West
Ste. 170 #312
Lake City, FL 32055
(407) 352-1200
FAX (386) 752-7839

Choosing Assessment Instruments

When the professional determines that testing or retesting is necessary, that person is usually limited to using whatever instruments are readily available. The most typical intellectual battery is the Wechsler scales' verbal subtests. Performance items are usually not administered, and if they are, should be used as a way of observing the process of problem solving rather than to obtain an actual IQ score. Keeping in mind that success on intelligence tests is highly dependent on language and experience, and that 70- 80% of all learning takes place through the visual mode, careful interpretation of test results is warranted.

Interpreting Results

Analysis of Weschler subtest results may yield the following:

  • Information - Scores may be depressed because of lack of visual experience or reliance on sighted persons' interpretations of the environment.
  • Similarities - Telling likenesses and differences between two concrete items may be a skill that is over taught to visually impaired students, which could artificially inflate scores. Abstract items are more difficult conceptually to grasp because of lack of vision and experience.
  • Vocabulary - For children who are very verbal, a large vocabulary of memorized, rote definitions alone is not an indication of superior intellectual functioning. Some children exhibit certain degrees of echolalia, or use speech without meaningful experiences to support them.
  • Comprehension - Social experiences and social skills are largely learned by experience and imitation. The visually impaired child cannot "size up" a situation visually as sighted children do and must be specifically taught what to do in certain situations.
  • Arithmetic - The ability to remember and manipulate mathematical operations without a visual image or special tools may put the child with a visual impairment at a disadvantage. Timing requirement is usually eliminated from this subtest for the visually impaired.
  • Digit Span - Scores may be inflated if the visually impaired child has highly developed auditory memory skills for unrelated items. On the WAIS III, verbal IQ score may be inflated or reflect a pseudo- increase since the digit span score is calculated into the verbal IQ where It is not on the Children's scales (WISC III). Conversely, if there is a problem with short term auditory memory, scores will be lower.

Adaptive Behavior

Although adaptive behavior assessments are not required, except in cases where other handicapping conditions are being considered or reassessed, the particular areas of adaptive behavior are often those that need remediation and intervention with the visually impaired child. Functioning levels in the areas of daily living skills, communication, and socialization are frequently ones which are depressed in this population. A measure of adaptive behavior such as the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales can be helpful in identifying areas in need of IEP goals. This particular instrument does include some norms for visually impaired children (ages 6- 12 in residential settings). Since the Vineland is in an interview format, input from the parent AND the teacher or primary care giver is important. Consultation with the VI teacher is also helpful in interpreting results.

Another interview format adaptive behavior assessment instrument which is used by TDMHMR (Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation) Is the Inventory for Client and Agency Planning (ICAP) 1988, available from Riverside Publishing. Skill areas measured include: Motor, Social and Communication, Personal Living, and Community Living.

Criterion Referenced Assessments

When standardized assessment instruments cannot be used, the evaluator is allowed to use whatever instruments are necessary in order to determine the student's level of functioning. In using developmental checklists, the evaluator is reminded to interpret results with caution, as the development of visually impaired children, especially those who are totally blind, is different from sighted children. One Instrument, the Developmental Activities Screening Inventory (DASD, has suggestions for adapting assessment items for visually impaired, although it does not include this population in the normative data.

Bulla, 2002

Interpreting Test Results And Observations

In analysis and interpretation of both test results and clinical observations, keep the following in mind as you review these with a teacher of the visually impaired:

  • Don't assume that a large vocabulary alone is an indicator of giftedness. Be alert to use of verbalisms and echolalia and consult with a speech/language therapist when in doubt.
  • Don't assume that confusion of pronouns and presence of self- stimulatory behaviors are indicative of a pervasive developmental disorder.
  • Don't assume that a learning disability or motivational problem exists when a discrepancy in level of Intelligence and achievement are noted. Similarly, poor spelling skills and poor penmanship are not indicative of a learning disability, or just plain "laziness".
  • Don't assume that emotional problems can always be diagnosed separately or apart from the visual impairment.
  • Don't assume that efficient performance in the general environment (playground, hallways, etc.) implies similarly efficient performance in the classroom.

Loftin, 2002


  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


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 --


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.

Assessment Of Learning Disabilities In Students With Visual Impairment


  • Overview of Visual Impairment and Influence on Learning and Development
  • Eligibility Criteria for Visual Impairment
  • Eligibility Criteria for Learning Disability
  • Importance of Determining Learning Disabilities in a Student with Visual Impairment
  • Specific Cautions before Beginning the Process

Intellectual Assessments:

  • Choosing an Appropriate Instrument
  • Interpreting Results with an Understanding of the Visual Impairment

Background And Educational Experiences

Educational Assessment

  • Consulting with the Teacher of the Visually Impaired
  • Choosing an Appropriate Instrument

Documenting Results Of Assessment

Issues That May Impact Learning and Development of the Student with a Visual Impairment

For The Young Child With A Visual Impairment

  • Delayed motor milestones
  • Echolalic speech
  • Hesitancy in exploration and initiation
  • Excellent expressive vocabulary but limited receptive skills
  • Misuse of pronouns

For The Older Student With A Visual Impairment

  • Tangential or egocentric conversations
  • Focusing upon isolated parts of a whole
  • Egocentric problem solving strategies
  • Difficulty in applying information to new situations

For The Secondary Student With A Visual Impairment

  • Difficulty with spelling (particularly with Braille readers)
  • Over-identification with adults
  • Difficulty in initiating and maintaining peer interactions
  • Tendency to be passive in problem solving

TSBVI, 1995

Visual Impairment is NOT a Single Condition

Congenital - (Prior to age of 18 months)

Acquired - (After age of 18 months)

No Vision

(Braille/Tactile learner)

Most Severe,
Most Modifications

Examples include: Anopthalmia

Less Severe,
Fewer Modifications

Examples include:Traumatic brain injury


Low Vision

(Print learner)

Less Severe,
Fewer Modifications

Examples include: Albinism

Less Severe,
Fewer Modifications

Examples include: Progressive myopia

Approximately 75% of visual impairments result from some problem with aspects of the central nervous system.

Examples include retinopathy of prematurity, optic atrophy, optic nerve hypoplasia, septo-optic dysplasia, traumatic brain injury

Approximately 25% of visual impairments result from a "mechanical" problem of the eye.

Examples are glaucoma, congenital cataracts, colobomas, aniridia, progressive myopia

Some types of visual impairments include both problems with the central nervous system and mechanical problems of the eye. Example is congenital rubella

The most frequent causes of visual impairment for children are retinopathy of prematurity, optic nerve hypoplasia, and cortical visual impairment

Approximately 60-70% of children with visual impairments will ultimately be diaPgnosed as having a secondary disability.

This process is important for a number of reasons including development of an appropriate individual educational plan as well as identifying adult service delivery systems.

The best source of information regarding a particular visual impairment is usually the Functional Vision/Learning Medium Assessment.

Loftin/ Bulla 2001

Consultation Between VI And Assessment Staff

Obtain Basic Information About The Visual Condition And Modifications Through Review Of

  • The visual condition and specific educational implications
  • The most recent functional vision and low vision reports
  • Specific suggestions for modification of the testing environment
  • Recommendations for low vision devices or adaptive devices that are required
  • The learning media assessment

Discuss Areas Of Concern That Often Emerge Such As:

  • overidentification of additional disabilities such as autism
  • inappropriate administration of standardized tests
  • inadequate recommendations for an individual educational plan.

Discuss Unique Developmental Patterns Of Students With Congenital Blindness

Clarify Misunderstanding Regarding The Nature Of Low Vision

Review Modifications Of Instruments By Discussing

  • Purpose of the assessment
  • How will the assessment data be used
  • Individual issues for the student should be considered

Review The Purpose Of The Assessment

Review The Way In Which The Assessment Data Will Be Used

Review Issues Related To Individual Students

Determination of Learning Disabilities in a Student With a Visual Impairment

Determine Current Level of Intellectual Abilities

  • Testing is current within the past 12 months.
  • Testing reflects all adaptations and modifications that are considered to be appropriate for students with blindness or visual impairments.
  • Results of testing reflect the scatter of skills in particular cognitive areas that are typical for any student with a learning disability. Specific strengths as well as weaknesses should be apparent upon reviewing the profile.
  • Results reflect a level of performance that seems to be with observation of student in a variety of settings.

Determine That Educational Experiences Have Been Appropriate

  • School records indicate that the student has attended school regularly, i.e. excessive absences have not been noted because of health concerns such as surgeries, treatments, etc.
  • ARD Committee determines that the student has received appropriate and adequate instruction in techniques specified in a current (within 12 month) Functional Vision/LMA.
  • No data suggest that other disabilities such as emotional disturbance, autism/pervasive developmental disorders, or mental retardation are contributing to the difficulties in learning.
  • School records indicate a consistent pattern of difficulty in specific academic areas over a period of at least two years. These difficulties do not seem to be related to patterns of absence because of illness, change in medium, or significant changes in vision.
  • Patterns of difficulty do not reflect an overall pattern of low achievement in academic areas.

Determine Level of Educational Achievement Using Both Informal And Formal Sources of Information

Informal Sources of Information:

  • Work samples indicate poor independent achievement of academic tasks at the expected level. This difficulty is also manifested in poor completion of homework assignments as well as grades on tests. This pattern is consistent rather than variable from day to day.
  • Observation of the student on at least two occasions in the classroom suggests that the student is attending in class and that the difficulties are not associated with problems in behavior.
  • Observation of the student in the classroom indicates that independent work is difficult regardless of the teacher/student ratio. Performance is improved when the teacher provides additional assistance. However, performance is still significantly below what might be expected.
  • Review of student portfolio/work samples suggests problems in basic organizational skills that is often associated with learning disabilities as well as confirms the difficulty in independent completion of activities in the specific academic area.

Standardized Assessment:

If available, information from standardized assessment confirms difficulty with a specific academic area. Again, assurances should confirm that all recommended modifications were in place when testing occurred.

Individual Educational Assessment

In contrast to traditional methods of determining learning disabilities, no single academic test is available that will adequately assess academic skills of a student with visual impairments. In addition, the problems of determining learning disabilities prior to Grade 3 are compounded in the visually impaired. The reliance on visual stimuli in virtually all academic measures prior to Grade 3 makes these tests inappropriate for young students with visual impairments.

It is recommended that any testing to determine the presence of learning disabilities in a student with visual impairments occurs no sooner than the fourth grade.

This ensures an adequate basis of educational experiences, as well as training in disability-specific skills. It also increases the range of educational instruments that can be used to measure academic skills that are of concern.

Prior to testing of academic skills, the assessment professional should consult with the teacher of the visually impaired to determine specific procedures for assessment. The assessment professional must administer an individual intelligence test at the time of testing for learning disabilities. Modifications must be made in procedures as recommended in earlier materials.

Selection of an instrument for assessment of educational performance should be based upon the specific area of concern. As specified by the IDEA, these concerns include oral expression, listening comprehension, written comprehension, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, and mathematics reasoning.

Selection of the specific instrument for instruction should be a joint decision between the assessment professional and the teacher of the visually impaired. This decision must consider the age and current performance level of the student, visual efficiency and acuity of the student, and recommended medium and modifications. At that time the two professionals should determine the extent to which the teacher of the visually impaired should be involved in the assessment process. For example, the teacher of the visually impaired should be responsible for administration and scoring of the Writing subtests for any Braille reader. Determination of responsible persons for other academic areas can be based upon mutual consensus between the two.

Instruments that have subtests that have proved most efficient for measuring educational skills include portions of the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement (III) Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, and Diagnostic Achievement Battery. Although each of these tests have subtests that are inappropriate for the student with a visual impairment, each test also has subtests that yield important information. Please see Attachment A for specific information about each of the tests and subtests. When this is supplemented with other information as described above, an ARD Committee is able to make a decision regarding the presence of a learning disability in a student with a visual impairment.

Assessment for a learning disability in a student with a visual impairment is a difficult task. However, it is also an important one that can be accomplished with a strong multi-disciplinary team approach. The process is more time consuming than the more typical discrepancy model that is used with most students who have a learning disability. For the student who continues to struggle with academic tasks in spite of multiple modifications for visual impairments as well as strong support from a VI teacher, this seems to be an effort that is well-worth the time involved.

Suggested Summary Statement

On the basis of this evaluation, the ARD Committee determines that there is a significant discrepancy between intelligence and educational performance of this student. Although the student is visually impaired, this disability is not the primary cause of the disability in learning. Information from the record indicates that appropriate modifications for visual impairment have been consistently made. It also indicates that a teacher of the visually impaired has provided educational services as recommended by the ARD Committee and was in agreement with the need for additional testing.

A review of the record as well as individual student work samples indicates that the difficulties have been present for at least two school years. Additional remedial efforts have not been successful in decreasing these academic problems.

Direct observation of the student does not indicate that the student is experiencing difficulty because of inability to attend or emotional/behavioral difficulties. Further the observation suggests that all recommended modifications are being implemented in the classroom.

Based upon the review of record, the intellectual assessment of (date), review of the following work samples (list), and educational assessments of (date), the ARD Committee determines that the student meets the eligibility criteria for learning disabled.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Marnee Loftin, M.A. and Nanette Bulla, M.Ed.
October 2001

Process For Determining and Documenting Learning Disabilities In Students With Visual Impairments

Determine Intellectual Ability

  • Current within 12 months
  • Reflects appropriate VI modifications and adaptations
  • Reflects specific pattern of strengths and weaknesses on subtests
  • Results are consistent with observations of student

Review Appropriateness of Educational Experiences

  • Regular school attendance
  • Instruction consistent with modifications in Functional Vision/LMA
  • No data suggesting presence of other disabilities such as mental retardation
  • Consistent pattern of difficulty in academic areas for at least two years that do not seem to be related to change in vision or medium
  • Academic difficulties do not reflect an overall pattern of low achievement

Determine Level of Educational Performance

Informal Methods:

  • Work samples, homework, grades on tests
  • Observation in classroom to determine level of attention to academic tasks
  • Observation to determine level of independent task completion
  • Observation of organizational skills

Formal Educational Assessment

  • Standardized assessment confirms difficulty with an academic area
  • Modifications in assessment procedures have been made in consultation with the teacher of the visually impaired
  • Selection of instrument(s) are determined by area of concern
  • Selection of the instrument(s) are made in consultation with the teacher of the visually impaired
  • Consensus should be reached regarding the role of the teacher of the visually impaired in the educational assessment process
  • Specific recommendations for appropriate instruments are provided in the additional materials.
  • Multidisciplinary assessment

Suggestions for Reporting of Intelligence Quotients for Students with Visual Impairments

  • IQ scores should be reported as a range
  • Cautionary statements should be included
  • Appropriate modifications
  • Supplement with direct observation
  • Base recommendations on multiple sources of data
  • Limit use of instruments that focus upon visual spatial skills

Things I Did Not Learn In Psychology

  • Every student with a visual impairment will not benefit from Braille instruction or use of a cane for mobility
  • Constant verbal interaction may not be the most effective strategy in teaching or assessing the student with a visual impairment
  • Motor milestones tend to be delayed for children with visual impairments
  • Normal language development of children with severe visual impairments often includes period of echolalia and confusion of pronouns
  • Estimates suggest that approximately 60% of students with visual impairments will have some type of difficulty with learning, ranging from mild learning disabilities to mental retardation
  • Social skills often require direct instruction because of the lack of opportunities for incidental learning through visual channels
  • Use of assessment techniques that focus upon visual tasks is highly questionable even for the student with low vision
  • It is not unusual for a student with visual impairment to have a large vocabulary but quite limited understanding of the meaning of the words
  • Scores on the Wechsler scales tend to change dramatically at two ages. The first is a drop at age nine likely because of the difficulty experienced in developing abstract reasoning skills. The second is an increase when the change is made from the WISC to the WAIS. This is likely the result of the inclusion of the Digit Span and the splinter skill of short-term memory observed in many students.
  • Many students are quite resistant to using devicesthat are helpful but that identify them as being visually impaired
  • Specific issues associated with assessment and interpretation of results will depend upon the degree of vision for a student, etiology, and age of onset.
  • The vision teacher as well as O&M instructor remain the best source of information regarding specific modifications that must be made for the assessment process
  • Change of medium, i.e. from print to Braille is a complex decision that must be made on the basis of a number of variables. Generally this change results only in increased efficiency in learning. Seldom does it result in more effective learning
  • Specific problems such as reversals in letters that occur in print are quite likely to occur if a change is made to Braille
  • In determining the extent of modifications in the assessment process, a critical consideration is the purpose for the assessment
  • Visual acuities don't tell the whole story Loftin 1998

Commonly-Used Instruments For Assessing Educational Performance And Appropriateness For Students With Visual Impairments

Please note that the teacher of the individual student is generally the best source of information regarding the appropriateness of standardized educational measures. The following is an overview of the perceived appropriateness of individual subtests for determining specific learning disabilities. Please use this information as a basis for discussion with the teacher of the student you are assessing.

Commonly-Used Instruments For Assessing Educational Performance And Appropriateness For Students With Visual Impairments


Large Print




Story Recall-Delayed




Listening Comprehension




Characteristics/Story Comprehension






Written Expression


Consult with Teacher


Written Expression




Written Composition/ Capitalization & Punctuation/Spelling






Letter/Word Identification








Alphabet/Word Knowledge



Gray Oral Reading Test






Johns Reading Inventory





Passage Comprehension




Reading Comprehension

Start with #9

Start with #9


Reading Comprehension






Math Calculation




Numerical Operations



Key Math - Revised







Applied Problems




Math Reasoning


Consult with VI Teacher


Math Reasoning


Consult with VI Teacher








Synonyms/Grammatic Completion



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.

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.

  • Penlight with different colored filters
  • Flashlight with different colored filters
  • 2 finger puppets
  • 2 identical toys 2- 4 inches in size (no noise- makers)
  • 2 balls - one large and one small
  • Toy car or any 2- 3 inch object that rolls easily
  • A wide array of bright objects
  • Cheerios
  • Cake decorations (the size of hole punches)
  • Small pictures similar to those found in Lotto games that can be matched up
  • Slinky
  • Several pairs of identical objects of differing sizes: balls, toy cars, blocks, pets, etc.
  • One- inch blocks and a coffee can/container
  • Pegs and a board
  • Stacking rings and a ringstick
  • Simple formboard (puzzle)
  • Colored one- inch cubes (two of each color- red, yellow, blue, white, green, etc.)
  • Eye Charts: Near and Distance, Examples:
    • Lighthouse f/t Blind Symbols for Children
    • HOTV Chart
    • Feinbloom Eye Chart
    • Near Vision "Game" Test
    • Near Vision "Number" Test
  • Tape measure
  • Samples of near vision print tasks such as:
    • Road maps
    • samples of Scantron answer sheets
    • Charges, graphs,
    • tablespage from a telephone book
    • Newspaper
    • menu
    • Game cards
    • CD case w/ song list
    • Worksheets
    • paperback book
  • Scissors and bold outline shapes printed on paper to be cut out w/ scissors
  • Crayons
  • Regular lined paper for different grade levels
  • Color test (yarn swatches) or color cards to match
  • Different types of picture cards:
    • black & white
    • pictures found in 1St- 2nd grade workbooks
    • photographs; magazine pictures
    • Stop watch

Performing Functional Vision Evaluations and Learning Media Assessments

Education Service Center - Region 13


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.