Main content

Alert message

Save the Date! Conferences & Trainings for 2019-2020 


Deafblind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT), September 27-29, 2019, Atlanta, GA. Sponsored by National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH). 


14th International CHARGE Syndrome Conference, August 2 -5, 2019; Hilton Anatole, Dallas, TX.


Braille Boot Camp, August 6-9, 2019, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Braille Boot Camp: Braille Document, Tactile Graphic, and Music Production


Adults with Albinism Weekend, Septeer 27-29, 2019.


Intervener Team Training, October 10-11, 2019, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX.


“Lead On!”, the 2019 Southwest Orientation and Mobility Conference (SWOMA), November 1-3, 2019, Fredonia Hotel, Nacogdoches, TX. 2019 Southwest Orientation and Mobility Conference


Advanced Practitioner Series Studies in DeafBlindness, November 13, 2019, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Advanced Practitioner Series Studies in DeafBlindness


Getting in Touch with Literacy International Conference, November 13-16, 2019, Seattle, WA. 


Game of Life, December 12 -15, 2019, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Game of Life


Texas Focus 2020 - Self Determination: Building Positive Futures for Every Child". February 27-29, 2020. Hyatt Regency Houston Intercontinental Airport, 425 N. Sam Houston Parkway East, Houston, TX 77060.


In the Driver's Seat:  Introduction to Safe Driving with Low Vision, March 6-8, 2020, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX In the Driver's Seat:  Introduction to Safe Driving with Low Vision


TAER 2020, April 2-4, 2020, Embassy Suites, San Marcos, TX. 


Low Vision Conference, May 1, 2020, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX. 


NOAHCon2020, National Conference of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), July 9-12, 2020, Orange County, CA. 

Announcing! A FREE Nemeth online resource is now available for Pre-K through 8th
grade levels on the TSBVI Online Learning webpage! It is designed to provide easy
access to support learning or reinforcing Nemeth braille code skills for families, teachers
or paraeducators working with students who are braille readers.  
These modules are a companion to the TSBVI publication, Nemeth at a Glance. Dr.
Derrick Smith, professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was the creator of
this series, with sections by Janet Bean, Lead Teacher in the TSBVI Curriculum
Although presented in the grade level order that symbols are typically introduced to
students in school, you can dip in at any level to find specific symbols and examples.  
Modules include an explanation of the symbol, relevant rules, and examples of how to
use the symbol in math examples. There are multiple samples of using Nemeth
within UEB contexts. Short, ungraded quizzes following each module will help
document mastery of the material and provide useful feedback. Completing these
optional quizzes will lead to a certification of completion. 
Modules for PreK - 1st grade, 2nd - 3rd grade, and 4th - 6th and 7/8 grade are already
available.  Look for the upper level math grades to be posted in the fall of 2019.


General Information about Nemeth Braille Courses

Dr. Kitra Gray; Sponsored by Region 11 ESC


Introduction, Adapting the Content and Adapting the Methodology

In working with Local Education Agencies (LEAs: school districts and charters) for many years, the question seems to arise as to how specially designed instruction differs for students with visual impairments from other students with disabilities. Since the population of students with visual impairments is a very diverse group that includes all age ranges, levels of cognitive and physical abilities as well as a wide range of vision abilities, all components of specially designed instruction potentially may apply to any child with a visual impairment. Yet, there are some unique needs of students with visual impairments that may be unfamiliar to some educators because of the low incidence of this population. Thus, this article will focus on these unique needs rather than the broad topic of specially designed instruction which is required for every student with a disability who receives special education services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) definition of Specially Designed Instruction indicates that:

“Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an

eligible child under this part, the

  • content
  • methodology or
  • delivery on instruction” (IDEA § 300.39 (b)(3).).

The definition continues by indicating that the three components listed above: content, methodology and delivery of instruction should be adapted to: 

  • “address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and
  • ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards…” (IDEA § 300.39 Special education (b)(3)(i-ii).).

The definition above combined with the stated Purpose of IDEA:

“To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services:

  • designed to meet their unique needs and 
  • prepare them for further education, 
  • employment, and 
  • independent living” (IDEA § 300.1 Purposes, (a).),

help us understand the role of education in relation to students with visual impairments. 

“Specially designed instruction (SDI) is planned, organized and meaningful in that it is an intentional and systematic process that specifically addresses the student’s needs as expressed in the IEP” (Auburn Public Schools, n.a.). “The LEA must provide a child with a disability specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability, and ensures access by the child to the general curriculum, even if that type of instruction is being provided to other children, with or without disabilities, in the child’s classroom, grade or building” (Musgrove, M., 2012). For a student to be considered to need special education services, the student must require specially designed instruction to make progress in the curriculum and these components should be reflected in the student’s IEP.  Thus, this article will explore the three components of specially designed instruction as described in IDEA in relation to a student’s visual impairment. The three components are: 

  1. Adapting the content, 
  2. Adapting the methodology 
  3. Adapting the delivery of instruction. 

Component I: Adapting the Content

Usually when educators think of adapting the content, they focus on the state curriculum content standards. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas (2017, p. 6) state that “in addition to the general education curriculum all students with visual impairments, starting at birth, also need an expanded core curriculum (ECC) to meet needs directly related to their visual impairment (TEC 30.002, Subsections (c-1) and (c-2).” Thus, when considering adapting the content for students with visual impairments, the ARD committee must consider two content areas:

  1. General education curriculum
  2. Expanded core curriculum (ECC). 

This additional content area, known as the Expanded Core Curriculum, is essential for students with visual impairments so they can graduate ready for further education, employment and/or independent living as required by the purpose of IDEA.  Meeting this IDEA purpose “is a key role of the TVI [teacher of students with visual impairments] and the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments…” (AFB, n.d., p. 5).

According to the 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas (TEA, 2017, p. 6), the expanded core curriculum includes:

  • Compensatory skills that permit access to the general curriculum (such as braille and concept development, tactile graphics, Nemeth Code, and specialized communication skills) 
  • Orientation and mobility skills 
  • Social interaction skills 
  • Career education and planning 
  • Assistive technology, including optical devices 
  • Independent living skills 
  • Recreation and leisure skills 
  • Self-determination, and 
  • Sensory efficiency (including visual, tactual and auditory skills). 

The guidelines do not indicate that one area of the ECC is more important than another area. They are all equally important for students with visual impairments. Therefore, for the ARD committee to appropriately develop an IEP for a student with a visual impairment, the committee must have access to four types of evaluation/assessment data:

  1. Functional vision evaluation (FVE)
  2. Learning media assessment (LMA)
  3. Expanded core curriculum (ECC) assessments (in all areas)
  4. Orientation and mobility (O&M) evaluation.

“The FVE, LMA and ECC assessments are the main specialized assessments for students with visual impairments that form part of a comprehensive evaluation for eligibility” (Zebehay, 2017, p. 39). In addition, in Texas, the Orientation and Mobility Evaluation is also a requirement of the initial and continuing eligibility of a student with visual impairments (SBOE § 89.1040 (12)(B).). So, all four evaluations/assessments are required both at the initial evaluation and at the three year evaluation. IDEA is clear that a comprehensive evaluation must address both eligibility and “content of the child’s IEP” (IDEA § 300.304 (b) (ii).). Furthermore, “these specialized assessments should be considered a ‘living document,’ meaning that they should be updated frequently enough to maintain a record of the student’s functioning and to assess current and future needs that may change with age, grade level, or visual prognosis” (Zebehay, 2017, p. 39). 

Therefore, specially designed instruction for students with visual impairments must consider “two equally essential and interrelated curricula, the general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum….The first is the core curriculum which consist of all skill areas that are common to all students” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 205). The second curriculum, the ECC, is important because “after analysis, there is evidence that there are numerous significant relationships between the receipt of instruction in expanded core curriculum (ECC)-like content areas and meaningful outcomes, such as employment, postsecondary training, and engagement in social activities” (Wolffe & Kelly, 2011). Thus, the expanded core curriculum is an “integral and indispensable component of the [general] curriculum, not skills that are considered extra or for enrichment” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 205). 

When devising an IEP for a student with a visual impairment, the ARD committee needs to address both curricular areas because one area can impact the other. For instance, the general curriculum may need to be adapted because the braille reading curriculum is commonly not aligned with the general education reading curriculum. Braille instruction includes learning symbols and contractions of words that frequently need to be introduced in a different order than letters and words in the traditional reading curriculum.

 Another example is sometimes a student with a visual impairment may not be reading on grade level because of proficiency with braille, not because of the student’s ability to learn. Braille takes more time and practice than visually reading print. Learning braille also can be impacted by other disabilities or the age when the student’s vision was impaired. So consideration of adaptations of both curricula, general curriculum and braille curriculum (part of the ECC), must be addressed simultaneously as one can impact the other.

Component II: Adapting the Methodology

The second component of specially designed instruction is adapting the methodology for students with visual impairments. There are two questions that need to be explored in regards to methodology:

  1. What instructional strategies are needed for students to learn/access the content?
  2. What materials need to be adapted or provided for the student to learn/access the content?

According to Holbrook and Rosenblum (2017, p. 205), while “the elements of the expanded core curriculum serve as the basis for what teachers of students with visual impairments teach…the instructional strategies and materials the teachers use to instruct students with visual impairments are also unique.”  Therefore, adapting the methodology, including instructional strategies and materials, should to be addressed in the IEP. 

Adapting instructional strategies

The ARD committee needs to address the unique instructional strategies that may be required for the student to access both the general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum. Some examples of specific instructional strategies that may be required for a student to access the general curriculum are:

  • The TVI may need to pre-teach concepts because the classroom will be addressing concepts that the child has not observed (i.e. what birds look like when they are sitting vs when they are flying)
  • The student may need hand under hand instruction or may need to touch and examine objects being shown in the classroom
  • The student may need to sit at a specific place in the room to reduce glare, use their peripheral vision or move closer to the focal point of the instruction
  • The student may need additional time to complete assignments because of visual fatigue or slow reading of braille material

In addition, after the ARD committee reviews the ECC assessment data and determines the priority goals for the student, the IEP will need to address what specific instructional strategies are needed to access/learn these goals. Some examples of instructional strategies that may be needed for the ECC curriculum are:

  • A student who does not learn through incidental learning because of limited sight, may require instruction in a community setting rather than in an on-campus setting to develop orientation and mobility skills, career education, social skills, etc. 
  • The instructional sequence of learning technology may need to be revised so that the instruction meets the needs of an auditory or tactile learner.
  • The instructional strategies for teaching social skills may need to be adapted because of the student’s classroom setting, age or visual impairment.

One specific instructional strategy that may need to be adapted is whether the student will need technology to access the curricula. Does the student require assistive technology (AT) to participate in the instructional process? Does the student require AT to meet the expectations of the IEP goals and objectives? “Technology is critical for individuals with visual impairments….Technology is used to access information, communicate, increase productivity, and organize information” (Kamei-Haman, Lee & Presley, 2017, p. 613).

The IEP will need to address whether the student needs low tech, high tech or optical devices to access both curricular areas. Does the student require a laptop with accessible features, an electronic brailler or something as simple as a braille ruler? The list of assistive technologies that may be required for students with visual impairments can be extensive. Sometimes the TVI must work together with the LEA AT team and the school technology specialist to devise a plan that will be functional for the student as well as conducive to the classroom setting. 

In addition, many students with visual impairments require a low vision evaluation by an Optometrist who specializes in prescribing optical devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, or specific CCTVs. These evaluations are the responsibility of the LEA to address the appropriate accommodations and instructional strategies for the student.

Technology is essential to the lives of people with visual impairments, yet “the ability to use technology does not come readily, and it requires specific attention” (Kamei-Haman, Lee & Presley, 2017, p. 613). Thus, the IEP team should document the student’s AT needs, devices, and instructional strategies as a part of specially designed instruction, related services, and/or supplementary aids and services.

Furthermore, in order for a student with visual impairments to access and learn the curriculum, the TVI will need to work with the classroom teachers to assure the curriculum is presented in a way that the student can understand it.  All instructional strategies that need be adapted to meet the individual needs of the student, should be addressed in the IEP as part of the student’s specially designed instruction.

Adapting instructional materials

Another part of adapting the methodology is adapting the instructional materials. “Educational materials can be modified in three ways: visually, tactilely, and auditorily” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 242). The functional vision evaluation in conjunction with the learning media assessment conducted by the TVI provide critical data for the ARD committee to determine these needs. Any required adaptation of instructional materials should be documented in the IEP as part of the student’s specially designed instruction. In addition, the IEP should indicate who will provide instruction in the use of the adapted materials/equipment.

Often students with low vision may use a combination of visual adaptions. “Visual adaptations are generally accomplished through:

  • enlargement of materials [including magnification devices]
  • electronic enlargement of text
  • increased clarity and contrast
  • increased illumination, 
  • decreased glare, and
  • decreased visual clutter” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 243).

Which visual adaptations are necessary, depends on the environment and educational requirements. For instance, sometimes it may be more efficient to use a magnification device to enlarge text, but at other times, it may be more effective to scan a document and enlarge it electronically.

For students who use their tactile sense for learning, materials may be adapted by:

  • transcribing written materials into braille including text, handouts and tests 
  • providing tactile representation of maps, graphics and pertinent pictures
  • providing three-dimensional models.

Even students who use their vision for some activities may find it more efficient to use their tactile sense for other tasks. Details in pictures can be difficult to see; thus, providing a 3-D model or a real object (when possible) may be needed for a student to explore and to truly understand all the details.  For example, it is very difficult in a picture to discern the difference between a cat and a dog, such as that cats have whiskers. However, once the student tactually learns about this detail, the student can use a magnification device to examine the picture and look for subtle details such as whiskers on a cat.

Of course, for students with little to no vision, tactile adaptations become critical to learn about even the simplest of objects or to read text. Therefore, knowing the student’s best sensory learning modality is very important for a student with limited vision.

Besides adapting materials visually or tactilely some materials may need to be adapted auditorily. “The use of auditory materials is critical for the success of students with visual impairments, especially for large quantities of written materials that must be read in a short period of time” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 246). Visual and tactile learners often have to supplement their learning using their auditory skills.  They may use:

  • auditory materials from sources such as:
    • Bookshare
    • Learning Ally
    • National Library Service
    • Books from the local library
  • teacher recorded materials
  • same classroom materials as their peers.

For some students to use their auditory skills effectively, they may need instruction and practice in using these auditory materials. Just because the student’s sight is reduced, does not automatically mean the student is a proficient auditory learner. 

After determining what materials need to be adapted, visually, tactilely or auditorily, the ARD committee also needs to include IEP goals and instructional time that may be necessary for the student to master the use of these adapted materials. 


Adapting the Delivery of Instruction, O&M, Mainstreamed Students, Summary

Part I of this article focused on the first two components of specially designed instruction (SDI): Adapting the Content and Adapting the Methodology. Part II of this article will focus on the third component of SDI which is Adapting the Delivery of Instruction. In addition, a short paragraph regarding SDI and O&M will be addressed (a more detailed article is needed to fully address O&M) and information from the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook regarding services to student who are mainstreamed will be cited. Finally, this section of the article will summarize both Part I and Part II of this article. 

Component III: Adapting the Delivery of Instruction

To address the third component of specially designed instruction related to adapting the delivery of instruction, this article will specifically focus on the unique needs of students with visual impairments in regards to the instructional arrangement of services from a TVI.

IDEA § 300.115 (a-b) indicates that: 

Each public agency must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services. The continuum required in paragraph (a) of this section must include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under §300.39 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and 

instruction in hospitals and institutions); and make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) 

to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement.

This IDEA requirement is true for all students with a disability including students with visual impairments because “students who are visually impaired comprise a diverse population in terms of age, cognitive abilities, and type of eye condition” (Levack, 1994, p. 6). Thus, instructional arrangements and services for students with visual impairments will vary depending on the identified least restrictive environment. In addition, “since placement must be reevaluated at least annually, it is likely that the placement for a particular student will change as the student’s needs, abilities, and strengths are appropriately addressed” (Lewis & Allman, 2017, p. 296).

Besides other identified specially designed instructional options such as settings, supports, and related services a student receives, the IEP should clearly indicate what type of services the student will receive from the TVI.  Some students may need both TVI support in the form of direct instruction to focus on deficiencies in expanded core curricular areas and collaborative consultation to address identified content modifications/accommodations, and/or adapted instructional strategies and materials.  Yet other students with visual impairments may not need direct services from a TVI, but will require collaborative consultation to assure all aspects of their IEPs are addressed in a way that benefits them.

Specially designed instruction from a TVI is critically important for students with visual impairments as so much of learning both instructionally and incidentally is based on visual information. “Students with visual impairments face unique challenges because of their limited access to incidental information gathered through casual observation…and challenges imposed by environmental (barriers) and societal barriers” (Wolffe, 2017, p. 146).

“Students who don’t have the benefit of incidental learning may require a different approach” (Sacks, 2016, p. 27). The TVI may need to assure the student has the same concepts regarding a topic as their peers with sight. Something as simple as that apples are different colors may not be addressed in the classroom as it would be assumed that all children know this from casual observation. However, a child with a visual impairment may need to be given the “opportunity to explore and taste the difference between red, green, or yellow apples” (Sacks, 2016, p. 27).

Also, sometimes students are limited by people’s perceptions. For instance, a PE teacher or an Art teacher may not want a student to participate in an activity because of safety concerns. The TVI can address these concerns by suggesting adaptations for the activity or providing appropriate resources so that the student can safely participate. Thus, the TVI is very important to assure the student can access/understand the educational curriculum.

Data of the student’s strengths and weaknesses from the comprehensive evaluation including the functional vision evaluation, learning media assessment and the expanded core curriculum assessment will assist the ARD committee in devising appropriate goals for the student in the two curricular areas. Then the committee identifies the least restrictive environment for the student and the type of specially designed instruction needed from the TVI:

  1. Direct instruction and collaborative consultation or
  2. Collaborative consultation.

In addition, the ARD committee determines the frequency and amount of TVI services that are needed for the student to make progress and be successful both in the general educational curriculum and in the expanded core curriculum.

The type and amount of services can vary depending on the students’ needs. Some students will need:

  1. Short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation for integration
  2. Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation
  3. Intermittent direct service with collaborative consultation or
  4. Collaborative consultation

Notice that the first 3 options are a type of direct service but each one also includes collaborative consultation. If a student receives direct service from a TVI, the student should also receive collaborative consultation. Consultative assistance is needed to assure the accommodations in the IEP are effective and are being implemented appropriately to allow the student to make progress toward the IEP goals. The fourth option applies when a student may not require direct service, but still needs collaborative consultation. Let’s examine these 4 specially designed service delivery options in more detail.

Short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation

Sometimes students may need short term intensive direct service so that they can participate in the classroom activities.  For instance, a student may already know how to use the computer keyboard but not know how to use the text to speech software that will be needed for a computer course. The student may require intensive service for a short time in order to master the software application prior to the course. Collaborative consultation should be included to assure the student learns what is needed for the course and to verify that guided practice is being provided/integrated by other service providers. The IEP should clearly reflect the amount of direct service and collaborative consultation that are needed including the frequency and duration of the service such as how many weeks are needed, how many sessions per week and the amount of time of each session.

Some other examples of when short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation might be needed are to address:

  • visual efficiency skills in authentic settings
  • concept development so that student has an experiential and conceptual basis for learning
  • new braille or Nemeth math code symbols that were not previously applicable for the curriculum.

Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation

Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation is frequently needed to teach the ECC and/or concept development such as:

  • Braille reading and writing
  • Abacus and Nemeth braille code
  • Notetaking skills
  • Assistive Technology
  • Social skills
  • Visual efficiency and low vision devices

Ongoing direct service usually will be from a daily to a weekly service depending on the intensity of the needs of the student, the ability of the student to receive guided practice between sessions and/or the student’s ability to remember skills taught over a period of time. If a student needs to learn a skill such as braille to be successful in the classroom then more frequent, intensive service is needed. Occasionally, a district may develop a resource room specifically for students with visual impairments when there are several students on the same campus with similar needs. The TVI is the main teacher during this daily resource time. 

However, sometimes a student may only need weekly services. For instance, one way to address social skills is for the TVI to work with the student on a specific skill once a week and then collaborate with the other service providers to incorporate daily practice of the skill.

Intermittent direct service with collaborative consultation 

Intermittent direct service including collaborative consultation is used:

  • to provide generalization of mastered skills:
    • in different settings
    • with different people
  • to address skills that may require:
    • classroom practice/implementation between sessions such as implementing a daily routine with a student who has significant delays
    • the student to complete activities between sessions such as transition activities (e.g. contacting a caseworker or transportation office)

Intermittent direct service may be delivered every other week or once a month.  However, a student should not receive this type of infrequent service unless another service provider is consistently implementing the IEP goals.  For instance, a TVI may work on a routine with a student several times during one week while simultaneously training the classroom service provider to implement the routine so that it can be consistently done on a daily basis. Then the TVI continues to provide consultation the following several weeks to determine if all elements of the routine are being implemented successfully. Afterwards another routine may be developed which requires direct services and collaborative consultation follow up.

Another scenario is if a TVI is working on transition skills with a Jr. high or high school student. The student may need to do some research or make multiple phone calls between sessions. In this case the student may receive direct service every other week or once a month.

Yet, even with this type of specially designed instruction, the IEP needs to clearly identify how much and how often the service will be delivered so that all parties understand the type and amount of service being delivered by the TVI as well as by other service providers. Furthermore, the IEP should indicate who will collect/report the data regarding the progress on the goals.

Collaborative consultation

Collaborative consultation is imperative for the success of a student with visual impairments. “Consistent communication with the classroom team is vital in conveying information about how a student’s learning relates to [the] visual impairment” (Erin, 2016, p. 91). “Consulting, when successful, and effective, is a method of providing robust services that involves frequent visits with the student and the educational team” (Chang, Kamei-Hannan, O’Connor, Toelle, 2017, p. 390). Collaborative Consultation entails:

  1. Assisting school personnel
  2. Locating, providing and coordinating appropriate resources and materials
  3. Being a liaison with parents or community resources.

Assisting school personnel

Assisting school personnel can vary from frequent in-class observations and discussions with classroom teachers to coordination between teachers and related service providers. A TVI might assist school personnel with:

  • developing an integrated IEP to enhance student’s classroom functioning 
  • understanding and adjusting accommodations/adaptations/modifications
  • interpreting eye medical reports
  • understanding student’s visual impairment and unique educational implications
  • developing routines to include multi-sensory activities
  • developing visual efficiency within daily routines
  • understanding and infusing ECC skills into daily activities
  • arranging the physical environment for visual/auditory/tactile access.

It is vital for the TVI to have time to collaborate with multiple team members and observe lessons for each student on the caseload in order to assure that appropriate instructional techniques are being implemented and accessible materials are provided in a timely manner.

Locating, providing and coordinating appropriate resources and materials

The TVI also spends a great deal of time assessing the immediate classroom needs of the student and locating/procuring specific resources so that the student can access and participate in required educational activities. In addition, the TVI must adapt materials or locate similar materials, to those used in the classroom, that the student can tactually explore or see. These tasks have been compounded by the use of digital materials that frequently are not accessible and by the fact that many LEAs no longer use state adopted textbooks which are available in braille or large print. 

Other types of resources/materials that a TVI may assist with procuring are:

  • American Printing House materials
  • large print materials and equipment
  • braille materials 
  • adaptive equipment/software and technology
  • braille, large print or auditory textbooks
  • low vision devices.

Being a liaison with parents and/or community resources

Because “families are the guiding force behind all life decisions for the child or youth with visual impairments” (TSBVI, n.d.), the TVI must maintain a healthy connection with the families of their students. TVIs assist parents in understanding their child’s abilities and to set long range goals. As skills in the expanded core curriculum are learned, it is important that these skills are generalized to the home setting whenever applicable and possible. In addition, the TVI can assist parents in navigating the many community resources and programs that are available to children with visual impairments.

This type of collaborative consultation may take on many forms such as:

  • Assisting parents in understanding child’s abilities/progress
  • Assisting parents in generalizing skills at home
  • Connecting parents with community resources such as: 
    • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
    • Texas Workforce Commission
    • Texas Health and Human Services Commission
    • Programs from other agencies such as Regional Education Service Centers or Lighthouse for the Blind

So, as you can see that the specially designed instructional service of collaborative consultation is equally important to the success of students with visual impairments as direct service. Furthermore, collaborative consultation can take the same, or frequently, more time than planning and delivering direct service. In fact, if you examine the caseloads of a TVI, both for ARDed consultation time and other time spent on behalf of the student, you will find this may exceed all the time spent on direct services. Lewis and Allman (2017) indicate that “consultation does not necessarily imply limited time commitment….Time is needed to:

  • Become acquainted with the student and the family
  • Understand the student’s complex needs,
  • Learn about the student’s educational environment
  • Meet with other team members for planning, explaining unique learning experiences…evaluating the impact of interventions” (p. 289).

Therefore, it is incorrect to believe that collaborative consultation is not as effective as direct instruction or that it takes less time. Collaborative consultation is as valuable to student success as direct service and can require the same or more time than ongoing services. Thus, both direct intervention and collaborative consultation may equally be a part of a student’s specially designed instruction.

Orientation and Mobility Services

While this article mainly has focused on the unique instructional arrangement of TVI services, there is another distinctive type of specially designed instruction that students with visual impairments may require which is typically identified as the related service of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training. This service is for students with visual impairments who need assistance in learning to negotiate their environment safely and efficiently. O&M is provided in much the same way as TVI services. Instructional strategies and materials may need to be adapted. The student also can receive both direct service and collaborative consultation. 

Some final thoughts regarding mainstreamed students

One area that frequently causes confusion for LEAs is understanding the specially designed instruction for a student that is mainstreamed. Hopefully this training has assisted with this analysis. In addition, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook also provides guidance in this regard. 

4.7.10 Code 40 - Special Education Mainstream

This instructional setting code is used for a student who is provided special education and related services in the general education classroom in accordance with the student’s IEP. The term “special education” means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. “Specially designed instruction” means content, methodology, or delivery of instruction that has been adapted, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, to:

  • address the unique needs that result from the child’s disability
  • ensure access of the child to the general curriculum. 

Examples of special education and related services provided to a student in the mainstream instructional setting include, but are not limited to,

  • direct instruction, 
  • helping teacher, 
  • team teaching, 
  • co-teaching, 
  • interpreter, 
  • education aides, 
  • curricular or instructional modifications or accommodations,
  • special materials or equipment, 
  • consultation with the student and his or her general classroom teacher(s), 
  • staff development, 
  • and reduction of ratio of students to instructional staff members…. Requirements

For a student to be coded with an instructional setting code of 40 (special education mainstream), the student must have:

  • special education and related services provided in a general education classroom on a regularly scheduled basis;
  • an IEP specifying the special education and related services that enable the student to access the general curriculum and to make progress toward individual goals and objectives; and
  • certified special education personnel involved in the implementation of the student’s IEP through the provision of direct, indirect, and/or support services:
  • to the student in the general education classroom and/or
  • in collaboration with the student’s general education classroom teacher(s) (TEA, 2018, p. 106).

So, all three specially designed instructional components that have been discussed previously also apply to students who are mainstreamed. If they require adaptation of the content (general or ECC), the methodology (instructional strategies or materials) and delivery of instruction (such as services from a TVI), then the student is a special education student who requires specially designed instruction.

Nevertheless, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook also clarifies that just checking in on a student is NOT specially designed instruction. 


Monitoring student progress in and of itself does not constitute a special education service. If certified special education personnel are only monitoring student progress, mainstream special education funding must not be generated. In order to report this instructional arrangement, document the details of the specially designed instruction that is being provided in the student’s IEP (TEA, 2018, p. 106).

Thus, there must be an IEP with goals and documented specially designed instruction including the type and amount of services from the TVI. Furthermore, the goal cannot be that the student will “Meet 70% of the TEKS” as this is not specially designed instruction. Students who do not need support from a TVI or other specially designed instruction may need to be considered for 504 services.


Specially designed instruction for all students who require special education services includes adapting the content, the methodology and/or the delivery of instruction. However, students with visual impairments have some unique IEP considerations that may not be inherently in other students’ programs. First, the ARD committee must consider two content areas: general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum for students with visual impairments. Second, the ARD committee must address adapting the methodology of instructional strategies and materials so that the student may access the curricula visually, tactilely and/or auditorily. Third, the type and amount of support from a TVI (and other related service providers such as Orientation and Mobility specialist) needs to be documented as part of adapting the delivery of instruction. Thus, if a student with a visual impairment needs specially designed instruction in any of the following areas, the student needs special education services.

Expanded Core Curriculum to meet unique needs of students with VI:

  • Compensatory or functional academic skills, including communication modes 
  • Orientation and mobility 
  • Social interaction skills 
  • Independent living skills 
  • Recreation and leisure skills 
  • Career education 
  • Use of assistive technology 
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Self-determination 

Access to the General Curriculum:

Adapting Methodology

  • Instructional strategies including AT
  • Adapting materials:
    • visual adaptations
    • tactile adaptations

auditory adaptations

Adapting Delivery of Instruction

  • Settings and services
  • TVI support
  • O&M support

Each component of the student’s specially designed instruction must be clearly documented in the IEP so that everyone on the educational team, including the parents, understand what special education services are required for the student to be successful and make continued progress.

References for Module II, Specially Designed Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments


American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) (n.d.). IEP and 504 Plan: What’s the Difference and Which is Most Appropriate for My Visually Impairment Child. Family Connect. Retrieved from:


Auburn Public Schools. (n.d.). What is Specially Designed Instruction? Retrieved from:


Chang, Y., Kamei-Hannan, C., O’Connor, K. E. & Toelle, N. (2017). Consultation and Collaboration. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


State Board of Education Rules. (2017). Retrieved from:


Erin, J. (2016). The Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. In Sacks, S. Z. & Zatta, M. C. (Eds,). Keys to Educational Success: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Holbrook, M. C., & Rosenblum, L. P. (2017). Planning Instruction in Unique Skills, and Supporting Differentiated Instruction and Inclusion in General Education. In

Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. (2004). Retrieved from:


Kamei-Hannan, C., Lee, D. B., & Presley, I. (2017). Assistive Technology. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Levack, N. (1994). Low Vision: A Resource Guide with Adaptations for Students with Visual Impairments. (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: Texas School For the Blind and Visually Impaired.


Lewis, S. & Allman, C. B. (2017). Educational Programming. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


McCarthy, T. & Holbrook, M. C. (2017). Compensatory Skills. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Musgrove, M. (2012). Office of Special Education Programs, Letter to Chambers. (2012, May 9). Retrieved from:


Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. (2013). Section 6: Writing Assistive Technology into the IEP. Assistive Technology Resource Guide. Retrieved from:


Sacks, S. Z. (2016). Educating Students with Visual Impairments Who Have Multiple Disabilities: An Overview. In Sacks, S. Z. & Zatta, M. C. (Eds.). Keys to Educational Success: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Texas Education Agency (TEA). (2017). 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas. Developed with Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved from:


Texas Education Agency (TEA). (2018). Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. Retrieved from:


Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired [TSBVI]. (n.d.). Family Engagement. Retrieved from:


Wolffe, K. E. (2017). Growth and Development in Middle Childhood and Adolescence. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Wolffe, K. & Kelly, S. M. (2011). Instruction in Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum Linked to Transition Outcomes for Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved from:


Zebehazy, K. T., Kamei-Hannan, C., Barclay, L. A. (2017). Overview of Assessment. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press


By the Texas Workforce Commission

Abstract: The article describes the Texas Workforce Commission’s campaign to promote career exploration and hot Texas jobs for individuals with disabilities.

Keywords: vocational rehabilitation, VR, career exploration, Texas Workforce Commission, TWC, Jobs Y’all

The Texas Workforce Commission’s “Jobs Y’all: Your Career. Your Story” campaign is designed to raise awareness among young Texans ages 14 up to 24, including those living with disabilities, about how to plan and prepare for high-demand careers. By profiling and linking to the state’s top career exploration tools, the campaign offers young Texans a great place to start exploring career paths and determine which occupation is right for them. Information such as potential earnings, required certifications and even a quiz to help determine career fit is all contained in one accessible user-friendly site.  

The campaign originated from a need to create a stronger link between jobs and education, as identified by Tri-Agency partners. As a result, TWC, the Texas Education Agency, and the Higher Education Coordinating Board partnered with employers, industry association representatives, workforce developers, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of fast-growing industry sectors and address the skills gap. 

The campaign focuses on eight industry clusters: Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing; Aerospace and Defense; Biotechnology, Life Sciences and Healthcare; Construction; Energy; Information, and Computer Technology; Petroleum Refining and Chemical Products; and Transportation and Logistics. The campaign is being promoted to young Texans through an advertising campaign, reaching them online and through the social and digital channels they use including Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.  

Jobs Y'all is all about giving students the information they need to explore careers and education options in Texas. Career exploration tools like Texas Career Check, Texas Reality Check, and Texas Internship Challenge are free, easy-to-use websites to help individuals learn about, plan, and apply for opportunities. Texas Career Check is a great place to start career exploration. Students can take a quiz to identify occupations relevant to their interests. They can conduct a side-by-side occupation comparison and learn which occupations will be in demand in years to come. They can also research and compare education options to find the training program, college, or university that's right for them. Texas Reality Check will show how much living expenses will cost and if individuals will be able to afford the lifestyle they want. Finally, the Texas Internship Challenge will help students search and apply for internships with Texas employers. 

The Jobs Y’all campaign is intended to provide helpful information and resources to all students, including those with a disability. The campaign is seeking success stories representing a range of young Texans succeeding in these high-demand industries, with plans to feature young professionals with disabilities and also to invite those young professionals to help share the campaign message through a video communicating in American Sign Language. Success story nominations can be submitted to: .  

 Explore the Jobs Y’all campaign and related tools at

Jobs Y'all Logo

Kathalene Gale, Field Supervisor for the Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program 

Abstract: It is important for parents and guardians to work with their Blind Children’s Specialist to ensure that their child receives wraparound supports. Learn the steps to help plan and prepare for your child’s needs.  

Keywords: coordination, support team, wraparound supports, in-home training, Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program, BCVDDP, Blind Children’s Specialist               

Coordinating your child’s support team can be challenging. The Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program (BCVDDP) is here to help by being an active partner in your child’s support team. After sharing your top priorities with staff, you can receive support in accessing services to enhance your child’s future development and independence. 

  1. Be open and ask for help from your Blind Children’s Specialist and Rehabilitation Assistant team.
  • Your child’s needs are always changing. When you need support, let your specialist know so that together you can assess new needs and plan new services. 

  1. Communicate outside of your scheduled visits.
  • Reach out to your Blind Children’s Specialist every time information about your child changes. 

  1. Invite others into your support team.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Reach out for support from your team. 
  • The program can connect you to other families and community resources.

  1. Share your Blind Children’s Specialist’s contact information.
  • Your specialist can work with other members of your child’s support team to ensure needed services are received.

The Blind Children’s Program offers a variety of services that can include:

  • Support at Admission, Review and Dismissal meetings 
  • Community resources
  • Statewide services and information            
  • In-home training
  • Conferences and workshops                        
  • DeafBlind services
  • Personal futures planning  
  • Networking

If you are not currently in the Blind Children’s Program and would like to connect with a Blind Children’s Specialist, please email us at .

WHEREAS, Mr. William E. Daugherty is retiring from his position as superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) after 12 years of outstanding service; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty has worked in the field of blindness, visual impairment and DeafBlindness for 39 years, including 5 years as an itinerant Teacher of the Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility Teacher, 2 years as a lecturer/research assistant at the University of Texas and at Texas Tech University while also serving as an independent orientation and mobility contractor, 2 years as a career education supervisor at TSBVI, 4 years as assistant principal at TSBVI, 14 years as superintendent of Kansas School for the Blind; and 12 years as superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty successfully led the School through a particularly challenging time as the entire TSBVI campus was reconstructed; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty dedicated his professional life to serving students with visual impairments who attend the School as well as those across the state; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty significantly increased services for students in Short-Term Programs and developed an effective distance learning program for students to receive instruction while remaining in their local districts; and 

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty helped extend the reach of the TSBVI throughout the state and nation through his strong support for hiring staff with distance learning expertise, including building the world-wide resource of WWW.TSBVI.EDU; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty’s work with stakeholder groups and partners helped to strengthen the statewide connections of the campus with local and regional programs;  

BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED BOARD OF TRUSTEES hereby expresses their sincere appreciation to Mr. William Daugherty for his devotion to the School and to the students, for his exemplary leadership and for his outstanding collaboration with the Board of Trustees of TSBVI.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED BOARD OF TRUSTEES congratulates Mr. Daugherty on the occasion of his retirement and extends to him their sincere best wishes for the future.

Joseph Muniz, Board President

on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees of 

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

May 31, 2019

William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired 


Abstract: TSBVI Superintendent William Daugherty is retiring and he highlights his career at TSBVI.  

Keywords: collaboration, parents, families, retirement, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, TVI, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, COMS, DeafBlind, National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired, NAPVI, Texas Education Agency, TEA, Education Action Committee, Personnel Preparation Advisory Group, PPAG, Education Service Center, ESC, HHSC, TWC  


Bill Daugherty

Bill Daugherty


I will be retiring on July 31, 2019, as the Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). My wife, Della, and I are moving to Denton, where she will be on the faculty at Texas Woman’s University starting in August. This milestone in my life has me reflecting quite a bit about how the visual impairment, blindness, and DeafBlind world has changed in Texas since I began as an itinerant TVI and COMS in 1980 at the Region XVII Education Service Center (ESC) in Lubbock. 

In 1980, the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin State University were all three preparing visual impairment professionals. The Regional Education Service Center (ESC) system began to hire TVIs and COMS, and many had several such professionals. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) had at least four consultants in the area of visual impairment. The Texas Commission for the Blind was a stand-alone agency. The Texas School for the Blind (not yet “and Visually Impaired”) was a fairly conventional residential school campus without much of an outreach or technical assistance role. About that time, a professional in our field who was also the parent of a student attending TSB led a collaboration to begin what would become the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI).  

For those of us just beginning our careers, the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s were a time of great growth and energy. Although many had come before us and had done outstanding work that formed the foundation of our field in Texas, our professors instilled a sense in us that we were pioneers of sorts. I certainly felt like a pioneer when I started, as there was very little guidance and we were mostly on our own to figure it all out. I made many mistakes that largely went unnoticed because no one was quite sure what it was I was supposed to be doing. Little by little, I learned and got better at it. 

In 1980, the concept of functional vision—what it was, how to assess it, how to adapt for it, and how to improve function—was an important and relatively new focus for VI professionals. It was a time of considerable trial-and-error on interventions like early vision stimulation. My first, home-built, battery-powered, vision stimulation devices to attach to cribs with black lights and rotating fluorescent visual targets, would not pass muster today. But both VI professionals and parents (99.9% moms) were hungry for innovation and were supportive of any well-meaning efforts. The concept and importance of Daily Living Skills for our students took firm hold, and some ESCs teamed with their area school districts to offer mini-camps where cooking, cleaning, personal care, and home management training opportunities took place. 

Many good things came out of our work in the early 1980s, and many who went on to become some of our field’s key leadership educators were then in their early stages of professional development. TEA was heavily involved in monitoring VI programs, and I can well remember the consultants from Austin coming to ESC XVII with their clipboards and checklists, interviewing us, looking into files, and even checking on equipment storage closets. Our statewide “vision conferences” often had as many rehabilitation staff from the Commission for the Blind as there were educators. I recall that as a really good thing for our field and am sorry it doesn’t happen much today.  

In hindsight, among the things that were either lacking or were in their infancy back then was coordination and collaboration at the statewide level and the involvement of parents as partners in the education of their children. Today, both of these areas are vastly improved and are in constant search for continuous improvement. 

A couple of great examples of the growth and evolution of our collaborative efforts in Texas is the Education Action Committee and the Personnel Preparation Advisory Group. Both just recently met on the TSBVI campus, as they do twice a year. The groups bring together stakeholders representing school districts, ESC’s, TSBVI, state agencies, families, consumers, universities, and related organizations. These groups don’t just meet, they do. Beyond spreading the word about our state’s needs and how effective programs are trying to meet those needs, the groups pursue initiatives that provide real, tangible resources and support to the state.  

 Family involvement in the above two committees is always sought and encouraged, and the groups are made better when parents and guardians are at the table. TSBVI has partnered with the ESCs, HHSC, and TWC to conduct family leadership training around the state with the intention of helping parents and guardians become more informed and active in their children’s education, and to build a system where parent-to-parent training happens with more frequency. Texas now has several family organizations around the state. How large and active these groups are can ebb and flow as their members have children graduating and moving on. Some of the most active and enduring groups have been formed by parents and guardians of children who are DeafBlind or have additional disabilities. I’m not totally sure what the key to their success has been, but it is easy to see that when they are gathered, their level of mutual support to all members in the group is impressive and celebratory. 

All of this above is to say that we should be really proud of how our state has improved and met the challenges and opportunities of ensuring that we have qualified TVIs and COMS in our schools, that our students have access to a quality education, and that parents and families are our partners in improving outcomes for their children. Our system for doing so is, and always will be, imperfect. We have to be diligent and committed to seeking out solutions to our challenges, and the more we do this in a unified, collaborative manner, the better off we’ll be. Collaboration has somewhat become our trademark by which we are known by other states who recognize how our collective efforts have led to one of the best and most dynamic visual impairment systems in the country. 

Paula Sonnenberg, Parent

Abstract: The mother of a student with visual impairment describes some of her daughter’s many accomplishments, including being the head captain of her high school’s Color Guard Team and being invited to participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She is also a talented artist with her own Instagram page, Art Out of Focus. 

Keywords: challenges, adventure, competitive swimming, color guard, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, art, Advanced Placement, Gifted and Talented, perseverance, determination 

“Fade to black” has life-altering effects when coupled with “malignant glaucoma.” This is not the ending to a movie—it is a life. 

Sixteen-year-old Scout Sonnenberg was born with glaucoma and other complications as a result of a rare genetic anomaly close to Rieger’s Syndrome. She and her two older siblings, Silas and Sadie, have a myriad of complications including hearing loss, orthopedic malformations, and endocrine inefficiencies, as well as heart and spinal cord issues that were not fully discovered until Scout arrived. 

Even as a blind baby, Scout was fearless. She took every challenge as an adventure. From a young age, she was fascinated with markers and paint and art related things. She began to draw in ways that amazed people. It seemed to soothe her. It was a source of joy and calm. 

A young girl seated at a table, wearing pink glasses, a baseball cap turned backward and scribbling with a marker held in her right hand.

Scout drawing as a young child.

As she grew, Scout added new adventures to her competitive swimming. She said the pool was a place she felt normal. She swam alongside and competed with sighted swimmers. She was eventually recruited by the Paralympics organization, but there was a hitch—Scout’s high school had no swim team. 

Photo of a teenage girl in a black swimsuit standing next to the diving blocks of an indoor swimming pool. She has swim goggles in her hands.

Scout preparing for swim competition.

As Scout was in her last year of middle school, she began to plot. Knowing that she would have one year where she and her siblings would be all together in high school, she was determined to get out on the football field with them. Her soon-to-be senior brother was a percussionist. Her sister made Varsity Football Trainer as an incoming Junior, and Scout would be a freshman. She tried percussion too, but it became impossible to read music with her visual impairment. Aside from swimming, it seemed that sports were a no-go. 

One evening at a band competition, Scout’s parents brought her out of the stands, close to the field so she could take in more of the action. As a whipping sound approached and a rush of wind spun by her she asked “What is that?” “That is the Color Guard—those are flags that they are spinning and tossing.” That changed everything. With urgency, she asked to hold a flag. Her sister’s best friend, Bailey, was summoned to the fence and handed over her flag. That was Scout’s ticket to that field her brother and sister loved so much. From that moment on, Bailey mentored Scout. Scout auditioned for and made the Frenship High School Color Guard. It seemed absolutely impossible and felt that way for her too many times. But she never gave up. And her Guard Instructors, Brian and Cindy Gruben, never gave up on her. As we began to discover during football season, the level of chaos on a football field, with a 350-member band toting instruments and uniforms and props, as well as more than 100 football players and coaches (add cheerleaders and spirit squads and photographers, etc., plus all of their equipment) was not a safe place for a kid who is legally blind. Enter Scout’s aide Ana (and eventually Dani). She had an aide just for Color Guard, her eyes to get her safely to her starting point and then safely off of the field. Everything else was up to Scout. 


During marching season you can always find Scout with her baseball cap/visor and sunglasses In this photo, she uses her cane to walk with her Color Guard teammates as they prepare to march onto the field during halftime of a high school football game.

She counted steps and used muscle memory just like she had done to conquer everything else in her life. She threw tosses like every other guard member on the field (while her mom and dad held their breath.) She was covered in bruises some days and had some good cries, but more than that, she never gave up. She began to smile—all the time. Her chin was up now. Confidence was rising from within her. She landed those tosses. She began to win medals. As marching season faded, Indoor Winter Guard approached. Brand new challenges and exhaustion and new depths of determination appeared. Fewer cries, more bruises, fewer doubts, more sweat emerged as she pushed on. She lettered her freshman year after receiving a Division 1 on her solo. She had her name put on the back of her letter jacket in braille. She won outstanding guard member and was named to the circuit’s all-star team. 

A smiling teenage girl with long hair holds a navy letter jacket with yellow dots on the back which spell “Sonnenberg” in braille. 

Scout proudly holding her letter jacket with her name in braille.


Transitioning into her sophomore year, Scout had her eyes on a new prize: Varsity. This required higher tosses, more intricate choreography, more chaos on the field and the floor. She landed a feature in the marching show and did, indeed, make Varsity for the indoor season. It was very challenging—but Scout wanted more. 

Scout throws a large black and white flag into the air, and she is looking up at it above her head, waiting to catch it.

Scout participating in Varsity Indoor Winter Guard.

In the spring of her sophomore year, between her eye surgery (# 42) and another orthopedic surgery involving amputation, Scout  auditioned for and made “The Macy’s All-American Marching Band” and will be one of six high schoolers from Texas marching in New York City on Thanksgiving Day 2019 in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She has begun to fundraise to get there by selling braille bracelets and commissioning artwork. She has been invited to take AP (Advanced Placement) Art next year as a high school junior and will receive college credit for the course. Scout is in the Gifted and Talented program at school and is a high academic achiever with many high-level college courses for dual credit. She will graduate from high school with enough credits to be almost a junior in college and is in the top 4% of her class of almost 700 students. 

Scout stands in front of a display of artwork. There are four large paintings and two small ones. Scout's is a multicolored painting of a tree.

Scout stands in front of a display of artwork at the Frenship Showcase for the Visual and Performing Arts. Her drawing of a tree, in the bottom right corner, was submitted by her art teacher and selected for display. More of Scout’s work can be seen on her Instagram page:

Scout’s black and white Zentangle drawing with the blue ribbon she won at the South Plains Art Fair.

Scout’s Zentangle drawing of a lightning bolt. This piece won 1st place at the South Plains Art Fair when Scout was in 8th grade.

Meanwhile, wanting to serve her teammates at home, Scout applied and interviewed for leadership in the band. She was just chosen to be the Caption Head (or top captain) for the Frenship Color Guard for 2019–2020. She has accepted this position with gusto and already has a notebook full of ideas for how she and the other captains can encourage and lead the Guard with positivity and teamwork. 

We will keep you posted on Scout’s adventures in leadership and in New York as she represents Texas, and, as she says, she “shows people that even if you go through struggles you can persevere and give little ones coming up behind some hope.”

An Andy Warhol style self-portrait of Scout with long pink and purple hair, green eyes, and blue lips.

This art assignment was to paint a self-portrait similar to Andy Warhol's paintings. The words around the perimeter are things Scout likes or how she would describe herself.

Kendra Dorty, Media/Distant Learning Coordinator, TSBVI Outreach Program

Abstract: The Outreach Media Coordinator, Kendra Dorty, relates some of the history of blind tennis and describes her experience learning about the tennis program at TSBVI. 

Keywords: tennis, Blind Tennis, sports, discovery 

The usual morning announcements echoed across the TSBVI campus: “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”, followed by the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, ending with a moment of silence. The morning routine proceeded to inform the students and staff of important upcoming events and activities - like what’s on the menu for lunch (I’m secretly hoping for steak fingers with a side of mash potatoes because that’s my favorite)! But on this morning, I was alerted to an announcement I’d never heard before, “Any staff and students interested in participating in TSBVI’s Tennis Team, meet in the gym after school.” Being an avid tennis player, I was immediately intrigued. When did TSBVI get a tennis team? Are there even tennis courts on campus? And perhaps the most obvious question of all—how does one play tennis if you’re blind? A year passed, and several steak fingers, before I heard the very same announcement. This time, however, in the spring of 2016, I ventured to the gym, and I soon learned the answers to all the questions I had wondered about from before. This is my discovery.

Angelina touches the tennis ball on her racquet to begin an underhand serve.

Tennis player, Angelina Varghese.

Blind Tennis originated in Japan by Mr. Miyoshi Takei in 1984. He was a student who was blind who wanted to play tennis, and with the help of his physical education teacher, he adapted the sport. They tested different types of materials by analyzing the height and trajectory of the ball and finally determined a foam ball was best. It evolved to have a little bell within the foam ball, which is the official ball used today ( While the sport of Blind Tennis continues to expand internationally, it’s still relatively new, and bringing awareness about the sport remains a primary objective. “Nothing is organized. It’s in its infancy stage,” says Cindy Benzon, a representative of USTA (the United States Tennis Association) in Houston, who is the adaptive coordinator for Texas. “We’re really good at introducing, but following through and building programs is the hard part…. They have a lot of blind sports in the U.S., but blind tennis is not one of them.” (Lin, 2014).

When I arrived for the first practice of the season, Coaches Joe Paschall and Kristine Seljenes promptly began with a series of warm-up exercises. I wasn’t quite sure what my role would be other than helping out with whatever was needed - enlightening others with tennis knowledge or simply chasing down balls to help with drills. But it seemed that if the group of students in a circle on the wrestling mat could do jumping jacks, run in place, and hold plank for a minute, that I should do the same. At 6:30 am, I quickly began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. After a brief, but intense, warm-up, Coach Seljenes began to outline for the students the game of Blind Tennis, and just like them, I was eager to find out.

Players sitting on a bench in the TSBVI gym, conversing while taking a break between matches. One student uses a walker and another has a cane.

Teammates Tyrell Weeks, Angelina Varghese, Ariana Baeza, and Seth Bethea.

For the most part, Blind Tennis is comparable to conventional tennis: the scoring is the same, serving and returning the ball are the same, and by all means, the competitive attitude is equal. The biggest difference is the type of ball used, the court size, and how many bounces a player receives. In conventional tennis, players are only allowed one bounce to play the ball, but in Blind Tennis, players receive more. Without getting too technical, students with low vision typically receive up to two bounces in which to return the ball, while a student with no vision can receive up to 3 bounces. The court size for a player with some vision is slightly smaller than a regular court, while the court size is even smaller for players who are blind.  

So how do players know where they are on the court? Paschall and Seljenes passed out tactile pictures of the court to students. Upon inspection, they quickly became aware of the court and where important boundaries were located such as the service line and the baseline. We then began to guide students onto the court to discover for themselves where to find the boundaries. The boundaries are taped off with a piece of thin rope so that the players know where to stand throughout the match. Depending on the score, players can independently move to the right or left of the service line to either serve or return. At the conclusion of this walk-through, the first practice was complete. We all received a glimpse of the origins of the game, how to play it, tactile information about the court, and even a warm-up. The TSBVI Tennis team was well on its way! What would we learn or do next?

The next few months consisted of regular practices and looked much like tennis drills I sign up for myself. Students were quickly transformed into competitive athletes!  Forehand and backhand drills were designed to encourage footwork and movement toward the ball, as well as making contact with the racquet and swinging through so the ball would go over the net. “They’re learning to move faster and in different directions,”  emphasized Seljenes. “You’re having to use both your vision and your hearing. You’re having to know how to move your body in a coordinated way in order to be successful in serving the ball and rallying the ball back.” Repeated serving drills instilled consistency with starting the point as well as practicing the verbal prompts that start every point, “Ready. Yes. Play.”  Before long, athletes were playing out points, games, and then sets together. While I remained at their side helping the coaches give proper feedback and reinforcement to their strokes, I soon turned into a ball girl to help facilitate their play.

Even with the existing modifications, like the smaller court size and additional bounces, the coaches continued to add adaptations that were tailored to specific students. For example, Coach Seljenes came up with an ingenious method for one of the students who had difficulty grasping the ball—she incorporated the use of a handheld scalp massager. This tool allowed the student to easily grasp the larger handle of the massager at the bottom while the foam tennis ball was nestled securely within the bendable wire arms. Utilizing this aid allowed the student to successfully hold the ball up to serve. Experimentation with textured gloves was also used with students who could benefit from having an extra grip while holding the racquet. Techniques like these were fueled by innovation and helped in the success of the students. Now they were ready to take these newly learned skills and have them on display during competition.

Coach shadows player as he swings through his forehand stroke.

Coach Kristine Seljenes and player Juan Barboza.

Although this was the second year since the school team had formed, it was the first year that I’d been involved and headed to a tournament with them! We traveled to Mission, TX where two other schools joined us for competition. It was the first time I’d seen our students compete with others who didn’t attend TSBVI, and while they were social and friendly off the court, they were fiercely competitive during their matches.  Every time I looked, the athletes were quick on their feet, moving to the ball, and working up a sweat. More importantly, they were enjoying themselves! “When I get the ball back and return serve, it makes me feel proud because I’m doing something that I accomplished,” athlete Jordan Price said. “The lesson I learned in tennis is to be confident in yourself - even off the court.” Fellow teammate, Juan Barboza, added that he had fun playing tennis as well and that it “would make me more confident in doing new things.” I was sincerely impressed with the commitment of the athletes and their dedication to improve throughout the season. In Blind Tennis, it is customary for the audience to remain silent during point play so that players can accurately hear the ball. Several times throughout the tournament, though, players got into an extended rally, and at its conclusion, the crowd erupted into cheers. In that moment, I felt truly honored and thankful to be a part of this entire experience. Coach Seljenes went on to say, “it teaches them discipline...focus...and that you need to practice in order to excel—at life, really.” From my observations, it appeared that the tennis players at TSBVI were tackling something they’d never done before and exceeding in their endeavors. I thought I was signing up to be the expert and mentor for the students on the tennis team, but instead, they turned out to be the mentors for me.

Since then, tennis at TSBVI has blossomed and more students are getting involved. Athletes are practicing at home on the weekends, and TSBVI even hosted its first tournament, in collaboration with other tennis associations around the community. Awareness of the sport is growing and the TSBVI Tennis Team is leading the charge. I can’t wait to see how the sport and TSBVI will expand in the future. Now, after we have a tournament, instead of wondering what’s on the menu for lunch, I’m waiting to hear the results of their competition, announced across the campus for all to hear and to give recognition for their amazing accomplishments. Every time, I think to myself, “Job well done!”      

References Accessed May 8, 2019.

Lin, Thomas. “Blind Ambition.” December 10, 2014. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Rachel Simpson, VI Family Engagement Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program

Abstract: The following is an article based on an interview with TSBVI student, musician, singer and songwriter, Devin Gutierrez.

Keywords: independence, confidence, music, EXIT, volunteer, special transit, moral compass 

On April 17th, 2019 Devin Gutierrez and I met for the first time to conduct an informal interview for this article. Devin is a thoughtful and gregarious young man, who likely never met a stranger. He is currently attending TSBVI’s EXIT Program, where he said he is learning “the independence skills and confidence to go out and do what I want to do.”  And what does he want to do, you may ask? “Play more music, have some gigs and write more songs!”  

Devin standing, holding his folding cane, singing into a microphone. 

Devin singing with a band at a holiday event in 2017.

Devin playing acoustic guitar and sitting on TSBVI stage, with deep red curtain in the background.

Devin playing guitar in 2017.

Devin has attended TSBVI a number of times over his school career. While participating in the EXIT program, he is currently serving as the Teaching Assistant for the TSBVI Jazz Ensemble in which he also plays the piano and occasionally percussion. He also recently composed a song that was developed into a music video. He said that he had been working on that song for a while when TSBVI Fine Arts Teacher Gretchen Bettes encouraged him to finish it…and the rest is history! The music video, entitled Special Ed, is musically very pleasing, funny, and contains some serious messages for the public about people with disabilities. Check it out! 

There are a computer and other technology in the room. Devin is standing behind the equipment, holding his cane in one hand.

Devin in sound booth 2019. He served as the sound designer and sound cue operator for the TSBVI Spring Play.

In addition, Devin has some pretty impressive work experience. He previously worked part-time for the education company in Austin that creates the STAAR test and other educational materials. While there, he worked as a quality assurance tester, Beta-testing new software before it was released. He says that he used a computer and Braille Note to complete these tasks.

Since February, Devin has been volunteering at Disability Rights Texas, where he is in the process of testing the individual websites in all 254 Texas counties to ensure that they are accessible. This is done so that people with disabilities can access the information about the location of their polling place and other information needed for them to vote. Devin uses a spreadsheet that lists each county’s website to keep track of his work. After completing the testing for each county, he is then required to write a report and send it to his supervisor. The information he collects will then be used to encourage Texas counties to include the necessary voting information on their websites in a format that is accessible for people with disabilities.

When going to work and other locations about town, Devin uses Metro Access, which is a door-to-door transportation service available through the local transit authority. He indicated that he uses Metro Access instead of the regular city bus because he has hearing loss in one ear. Unilateral hearing loss can make it difficult to discern from which direction sound is coming. Difficulty knowing the direction of traffic noise can make street crossings a dicey situation. For that reason and others, some people choose to use a door-to-door transportation service. This typically involves providing your local transit authority with documentation of the disability or health issue that makes using the regular city bus unsafe.

Hearing about Devin’s accomplishments made me wonder how he arrived at this point in his life, with the confidence, skills, and talents he possesses. He said that his great-grandmother was very nurturing of Devin and his brother. She was also instrumental in teaching him to live according to a certain moral compass and to have empathy for others. He indicated, too, that she taught him to embrace his blindness and not be ashamed. Devin shared that his great-grandmother was quite protective of the two boys, though, and wouldn’t allow him to use the skills he was learning at TSBVI. He says that her “desire to protect and nurture me was a beautiful thing!” He would, however, encourage parents and other caregivers to have a more balanced perspective, both nurturing the child and letting them learn from their mistakes so they are ready for the “real world.” Devin emphasizes that “blind people are just as capable as sighted people.”

When asked if he had any information to share with educators, Devin encouraged them to aim high. “Each student is special and unique and equally as capable as anything you do. Don’t drop the standard just because the student has a disability.” He speaks of a 2nd-grade teacher who always pushed him to go further, as well as the TVI in his local school district, the support he received from the TSBVI Outreach Program and Region 14 ESC, and his teachers at TSBVI who encouraged him to pursue his musical talents.  

When I asked Devin if there was anything else he would like to share with TX SenseAbilities’ readers, Devin said that he would like the word disability to go away and for people with disabilities to be treated with respect and understanding. “That is my dream for this world. I am not blind; I just see a different way.”  

In regards to his future plans, Devin said that he is moving to Austin after he finishes high school so he can become active in the “Austin music scene.” He has already played an open mic at the Cactus Café on the UT Austin campus. Way to show ‘em how it’s done, Devin!